Flooding is the leading cause of public emergency in Ontario. Conservation Authorities prevent more than $100 million per year in flood damages.
We can’t stop flooding completely. It’s a natural and important part of a healthy river and lakeshore system. What we can do is manage and reduce the risk of flooding by using a watershed-wide approach. Conservation authorities provide critical local watershed expertise thanks to their extensive local watershed knowledge and experience of the flood risks and adaptation.
Conservation Authorities rely on an integrated approach to flood management which includes the five pillars of Emergency Planning and Management.
Roles and responsibilities of Conservation Authorities for Flood Management
- Undertake floodplain mapping, modeling, and monitoring streamflow, rainfall and snowpacks
- Regulate development in flood prone areas in cooperation with municipalities and the Province
- Provide planning support and advice to municipalities to minimize flood impacts and issue warnings
- Acquire important floodplain lands and flood vulnerable structures
- Operate over 900 dams, dykes, channels and erosion control structures
Conservation Authorities bring added protection and benefits through watershed planning, watershed stewardship/natural heritage system management, stormwater management, low impact development, stewardship, monitoring and many other programs they deliver. Read the Flood Management Fact Sheet and Flood Business Case.
Lessons Learned by Conservation Authorities About Managing Flood Risk in Ontario
Ontario’s Conservation Authorities started to build healthy watersheds and reduce flood risk starting in the 1940s. Over the years, they’ve learned a few things about flooding:
- Direct development out of floodplains and flood proof structures already located in the flood plain prior to regulations
- Maintain and update flood and erosion control infrastructure such as dams, dykes and other structures to mitigate flooding
- Monitor snowpacks and rainfall year-round in order to help track and predict flooding
- Use a consistent flood forecasting and warning system that collaborates with all levels of government and local emergency planning
- Protect wetlands and plant trees and other vegetation all throughout the watershed in order to help slow down and absorb flood waters. Complement this work with green infrastructure and stormwater management activities
- Incorporate climate change into policies and programs
- Update technical Provincial guidelines in order to ensure consistency