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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban flood management and disaster in Canada : incidence, recovery strategy, and environmental resilience King-Scobie, Cheralyn


This dissertation investigates how cities can improve flood management relationships with riverine landscapes. It develops new data, analysis, and tools to address the need for systematic research on floods and flood management at the municipal scale. In Canada, floods remain the most frequent disaster type, and it is municipalities that are responsible for related land-use planning, emergency response, and often, flood management. However, municipal-scale information on flood disasters and flood risk management remains limited. To examine where in Canada flooding is a problem for municipalities, I developed and analyzed two databases: the All Floods Database (n=149), and a more detailed Riverine Floods Database (n=43), on municipal flood disasters from 2001 to 2013. Data were compiled from the Canadian Disaster Database, municipal surveys, staff interviews, and provincial and territorial disaster financial assistance records. According to the database, 15% of Canadian urban municipalities experienced flood disasters, most of which were non-riverine. Among riverine flood disasters, medium-sized population centres experienced disproportionately more events, and Alberta and British Columbia accounted for over half of the total. Next, I considered flood recovery as a window of opportunity for building resilience, focusing on environmental resilience in terms of flood management relationships with riverine landscapes. Are municipalities re-creating pre-flood conditions during recovery, or are they working to improve resilience and build back better? I created a typology of approaches to riverine flood management and applied it to 20 case study municipalities using survey, interview, and document data. Overall, 85% employed a primarily non-structural approach through land-use regulation. Comparing pre- and post-flood approaches, as many as 45% of municipalities modified their approach to improve resilience, and 30% chose a strategy that would in theory improve environmental resilience, particularly after large flood events; however, the majority retained a return to normal approach. Finally, I developed a tool, the Connection Workbook, to provide municipalities with a rigorous yet practical approach to operationalize assessment of environmental resilience. The tool was applied to three Alberta municipalities, and the results provided insights for actionable guidance to improve municipal flood management through the lens of riverine connection with the landscape. Supplementary materials available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/73442.

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