Globe and Mail, the
By Glen Hodgson, Senior Fellow at the Conference Board of Canada.
The scenes last year of widespread flooding in Quebec, the Ottawa region and then the "500-year flood" in Houston were stark reminders of the risks – and massive human and physical costs – of these natural disasters.
Up to 10 per cent of Canadians live in high-risk flood zones. They live in floodplains, urban areas with inadequate storm-water drainage or in low-lying coastal areas subject to saltwater inundation.
Mapping of flood risk in Canada is inconsistent and may not be widely available. Many property owners have chosen to live or work in these areas based on inadequate and incomplete historical information. While mapping is improving today with more sophisticated technology, risk mapping and flood-risk information are not managed or distributed under an integrated system.
How is flood-risk managed? Today, it is a combination of public-, private- and personal-risk management. This is still a nascent market for insurers, who have begun to offer flood coverage in Canada over the past two years. Properties in high-risk flood zones are very difficult to insure because of the exceptional risk and, if coverage is available at all, the premiums are usually very expensive as a result.