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The Problem

The Impact Of Climate Change

Our Past and Our Future

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.”

The Cost Across Ontario

In September 2018, the Insurance Bureau of Canada reported the following severe weather events in Ontario from January to early August:

 

  • January: A winter storm in northern, southwestern and eastern Ontario caused $9 million in insured damage
  • February: A winter storm in Brantford, Cambridge, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and London caused over $46 million in insured damage
  • April: A storm in southern Ontario resulted in over $80 million in insured damage
  • April: A storm that hit the GTA, Leamington, Hamilton, Kitchener/Guelph/Waterloo, London/Chatham-Kent and Ottawa-Gatineau resulted in close to $220 million in insured damage
  • May: A wind and rain storm hit Hamilton and the GTA, causing over $500 million in insured damage
  • August: This rainstorm in Toronto resulted in over $80 million in insured damage.

The Real Damage

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.

 

Government of Canada contributes to flood mitigation projects in Toronto

The Impact of Climate Change

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. 

 

Climate change in Ontario

 

IPCC report shows World, Canada, must do more to mitigate climate change

 

ICCA Recent Reports

What is 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:

  • Urban flooding (pluvial flooding) when the water is not absorbed into the ground or when the volume of water exceeds stormwater system capacity and flows overland.
  • Untreated wastewater to discharge or spill into our water bodies from sewage treatment plant bypasses or combined sewer overflows
  • Sewage back-ups into our homes and businesses
  • Flooding
  • Erosion
  • Damage to our infrastructure
  • The safety of the public to be put at risk
  • Water quality is negatively impacted by thermal or chemical pollution, including oil, lawn fertilizers, animal waste, and microplastics that wash into our waterways
  • Beach closures

What We Hope To Fix

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.

Resources

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.

 

Green Infrastructure Projects In The City of Toronto

BiodiverCities: A Primer on Nature in cities

The Green Infrastructure Guide for Water Management

 

Some resources to reduce flood impacts at home and make your home flood ready:

 

Being Flood-Ready

Flood Prep Brochure

Tips For Living Sustainably

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:

 

Tips for living sustainably and fighting climate change.

  • Plant a rain garden to help collect rain water and reduce localized flooding
  • Dig up pavement and replace with permeable pavement, gravel, paving stones, etc.
  • Plant more trees and perennials
  • Seal cracks in your foundation
  • Ensure proper grading around your home (have the land slope away)
  • Keep eaves, storm drains and culverts clear of debris
  • Extend downspouts at least 6ft from your foundation
  • Seal leaks around windows
  • Clear snow away from foundation in winter
  • Separate storm and sewer drains
  • Install a backflow valve and or sump pump if appropriate for your home
  • Store important and hazardous items up high
  • Elevate electrical panels, hot water heaters, furnaces, etc.
  • Anchor fuel tanks and make sure vents and fill lines are above flood levels
  • Install a water alarm that will let you know if water is in your basement
  • Have someone check your house when you are away
  • Create a family flood plan (include where you will meet up if you get separated, how will
    you communicate, where will you stay, what will you do with pets and livestock, what
    emergency numbers will you need, how will seniors will be taken care of, etc.)
  • Have a 72 hour emergency kit and fill it with canned and dried foods, water, cash,
    prescriptions, insurance documents, identification, a crank flashlight and radio, candles,
    tools, toilet paper, toiletries, first aid kit, camping supplies, and more
  • Also have a “go kit” ready for times when you need to evacuate quickly like during a
    forest fire or storm surge
  • If building or buying a new home or place of business, don’t locate in a flood zone (eg.
    low-lying river or coastal locations), also explore erosion rates for coastal areas
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance including sewer backup and overland flood
    coverage if available