Heavy rain – really heavy rain – that falls more often. Sound familiar?
Why we’re seeing more damaging downpours may be controversial in political circles. But here it is.
Cities, municipalities and insurance companies are tasked with cleaning up and rebuilding after yet another storm, or 100-year flood. They’re on the front line, looking for ways to mitigate those impacts. Indeed, these groups often seem to be ahead of federal efforts, which get bogged down by the political debate.
One example in Canada can be seen in a just-announced project spearheaded by an insurance company, Intact Financial, and the University of Waterloo. According to this University press release, 20 projects were selected for implementation from 75 proposals submitted from across Canada:
They will focus primarily on reducing the impact of torrential precipitation on municipal infrastructure through the restoration of urban wetlands and water channels, and the deployment of green infrastructure initiatives such as rain gardens, bio-swales and permeable surface parking lots and roadways.
Projects will also focus on efforts to limit coastal erosion in proximity to major cities. In addition to adaptation applied to infrastructure, education campaigns will promote practical measures that homeowners can engage around their homes to help stop basement flooding.
“As a society, Canada must adapt to the new climate reality, and ensure that our cities, communities, infrastructure and buildings are resilient to extreme weather,” said Charles Brindamour, Chief Executive Officer of Intact Financial Corporation.
According to a Canadian Press account in the Ottawa Citizen, “De-pave Paradise” projects will include Ottawa and Kingston.
Five cities across Canada will see some of their asphalt torn up and replaced with porous brick and gravel this summer to help mitigate the flash flooding that frequently follows extreme rainfall.
I’m not familiar with flooding patterns in Kingston, but Ottawa definitely needs better ways to handle storm runoff. (That should include wiser planning to avoid the type of development in flood plains that exacerbates such problems in the first place – with or without climate change.)
Montréal will see some of this work too, according to the same UW press release:
Nature-Action Québec will convert an alleyway on the island of Montreal, removing part of the asphalt, planting trees and vegetation, and adding lattice stone pavement to reduce flooding due to stormwater or sewer backups. This project will also help reduce heat island-related problems.
Dealing with unusually large amounts of water has become a huge problem across North America. Last year alone, parts of Alberta (including Calgary) and Toronto experienced severe flooding that was blamed for some fatalities along with massive disruptions and damage.
The Citizen article details project funding:
The 20 projects are receiving about $700,000 in direct funding from Intact, including about $75,000 for the depaving projects, which will remove at least 250 square meters of pavement.
In the greater scheme of things that’s not much pavement reduction. But presumably the projects are intended to test or demonstrate better ways to deal with storm water in cities, not to solve the entire problem on the private sector’s dime.
Those who have lived through major flooding would probably agree this issue needs more attention sooner rather than later.