Inadequate flood mapping is putting Canadian homes at risk

by Steve Randall on 04 Mar 2019

Canadian homeowners do not have access to enough information to help them decide if they should buy flood insurance according to a new study.

University of Waterloo researchers have found that flood mapping is inadequate and that’s putting homeowners at great financial risk.

"With governments starting to step away from flood recovery assistance in favour of having homeowners purchase private insurance, it is clear homeowners lack access to information that would help them determine if they should add that protection to their policies," said Daniel Henstra, a professor of political science at Waterloo's Faculty of Arts.

He added that with high levels of household debt, many homeowners would not be able to meet the financial burden of repairs following flood damage, making clear information on flood risk essential.

Together with professor Jason Thistlethwaite, and PhD candidate Andrea Minano, both of the Faculty of Environment at Waterloo, Henstra examined information available online from both government and non-government organizations for more than 300 flood-risk communities across Canada.

Lacking consistency and quality
They found that 62% of the flood maps available did not meet the minimum criteria for informing the public about flood risk. The availability and quality varied across regions, making it tricky even to know where to look.

"In this exercise, it became quickly apparent that mapping resources are largely outdated and the resources that are available are hard to find," said Minano. "If Canada wants to move from government assistance to help people recover from catastrophic flooding to a model based on home insurance purchased at the discretion of the homeowner, our maps and their availability need to improve."

The study appears in Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences.

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