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Non structural flood mitigation in Canada : linking the resources of today with a strategy for tomorrow Slater, Alyson

Abstract

Flooding poses one of the greatest natural hazard dangers to Canadians. As human populations increase and concentrate in areas vulnerable to floods, and uncertainty about future flood risk increases with the possibility of a changing climate, major urban communities, coastal settlements and communities located within floodplains are faced with an even greater risk of floods in the coming years. Canada's policies and practices towards flood control are best described as ad hoc, and have developed over the years in response to experiences with floods. No national scale flood damage reduction program exists, and there is currently no opportunity for Canadian homeowners to purchase flood insurance. This study specifically examines how a national mitigation strategy, focused mainly on non structural techniques could help decrease damages from floods in Canadian communities. The strategy proposed here is theoretically based in EPC and IBC suggestions for a greater national mitigation strategy, as well as IDNDR research, and federal, provincial and municipal goals for sustainable development and sound land use planning objectives. Ideally, a successful non structural flood mitigation strategy for Canada would address issues at the national scale, yet be implementable at the local level in accordance with community needs, risk characteristics, and local expertise. The strategy proposed here would maximize the efficiency of federal resources and private industry as well as allow local expertise and existing mitigation schemes to be formalized, bolstered and improved. There are three major components of the non structural flood mitigation strategy. Risk avoidance measures such as early warning systems, land use and resource planning and ecological conservation all work towards reducing the chances of a dangerous flood occurring. Risk spreading measures help communities deal with flood risks by improving equity and accountability, they include tax incentives, disaster financial assistance, and flood insurance. Lastly, vulnerability reduction measures help reduce damages if a flood were to strike, and these include enforcement of building codes and the maintenance of existing protective infrastructure. An integrated, non structural flood mitigation strategy would require basin-wide cooperation between all levels of government, citizens and the private sector. This strategy is also an opportunity for communities and individuals to meet goals of environmental conservation and sustainable development. The focus in this study lies on the mitigation tools, although it is the overall process of inserting the premise of mitigation into all land use and planning decision making processes that will be the key to successful flood mitigation strategies in Canadian communities.

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