IN JUNE, roughly 100,000 people in Calgary and southern Alberta found themselves displaced during what the government called the worst flood in the province’s history. Though the extent of the damage will not be fully realized for months, reports have suggested the costs could be close to $5 billion.
At the recent Canadian Water Summit, held in Calgary just days after the flooding, experts suggested that many areas of Canada have significant, comprehensive, and historic data about climate variability and flood plains. So why does a natural event have to cause so much extensive damage?
The simple answer might be that, despite the available information, we continue to develop in flood plains. At the summit, consultant Lisa Maria Fox showed a photo of knee-deep relief workers downtown. The backdrop? A large billboard advertising condos with a dream waterfront view.
What’s the solution? Short of ceasing development on properties we deem valuable, municipalities can require developers to have homebuyers sign a covenant stating they understand the risk. Chilliwack, British Columbia has bylaws to this effect. One Calgarian summit participant said she had no idea she lived in a flood plain until the flood happened, so another person suggested street signs in key areas indicating what to do in case of flood, since, in many cases, people are not aware of the risk.