At the Provincial Flood Forecasting and Warning Workshop, Gord Miller, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner, shared this point,
“Climate change has altered the fundamentals of the weather system. All of our old predictions — which were used to build thousands of kilometers of road, drainage pipe, and sewers — are inadequate. The changes to the weather system are so profound that old models and methods can’t accurately predict what’s going to happen; new models predict catastrophes so great that preparing for them could lead to bankruptcy… Severe storms will be more intense now than they were in 1954.”
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, insured damage in 2016 topped $4.9 billion – passing the previous annual record of $3.2 billion set in 2013—and that the annual economic cost of disasters around the world has increased five-fold since the 1980s. Flooding damage has accounted for 80 per cent federal disaster assistance payments over the past 20 years. Studies have demonstrated that every dollar invested in mitigation generates a savings of six dollars in future disaster costs.
Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of rainfall events, and is predicted to continue to increase the number of extreme wet weather events in Ontario. These severe downpours increase stormwater runoff.
Stormwater runoff is water flowing over the ground surface due to rain falling on impervious surfaces which do not allow water to soak into the ground (e.g. buildings, roads, parking lots, etc.). With increased urbanization in Ontario leading to the loss of vegetation and an increase in impervious surfaces, the majority of rain that falls becomes stormwater runoff. We are also facing the issues of aging stormwater infrastructure which was not designed to handle the runoff volumes we are seeing with current extreme rainfall events due to climate change.
Increased stormwater runoff can lead to many issues including:
Through the development and implementation of your innovations, we hope to reduce the scale of impact intense rainfall events have on our communities and the environment. By harvesting the rain water as a resource, we can also reduce our usage of our drinking water sources and provide alternative water resources during drought conditions.
RAIN Community Solutions, a service of Green Communities Canada promotes 3 key messages
to reduce runoff and runoff pollution:
1. Slow it down
2. Soak it up
3. Keep it clean
They also created the Soak it up! Toolkit, a great resource highlighting actions your municipality can take to reduce runoff and runoff pollution.
Green Infrastructure has proven to be an effective strategy for stormwater
management and flooding mitigation, as well as for climate change adaptation. Green
infrastructure relies on nature’s ecosystem services by using soil and vegetation to
absorb rainwater and filter out pollutants. For example, rain gardens help reduce
flooding by collecting rain water from roofs, driveways and other hard surface areas and
letting it absorb naturally into the ground.
Some resources to reduce flood impacts at home and make your home flood ready:
Of particular interest is the list of things you can do to be adaptable to climate change and be prepared and safer during severe weather events: