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Canadians Struggle to Find Reliable Flood Data

April 16, 2019
3 mins
A young man working at his living room table writes a note while looking away from his laptop screen

To get flood insurance or not to get flood insurance? That is the question, at least for the more than 300 communities across Canada that are at the highest risk for catastrophic flooding.

Unfortunately for them, a new report by the University of Waterloo has found that publicly available flood mapping data is severely lacking. That makes it harder for homeowners to make an informed decision as to whether they really need to get supplemental flood insurance or not.

What's wrong with the data?

Researchers examined online resources and found Canada flooding data was incomplete, hard to find, and often lacking enough information to be used to make an informed decision. A review of available Canada flooding data found that more than 62% of maps did not meet the minimum basic criteria for homeowners to make a qualified decision.

The quality of resources varied from province to province leading researchers to conclude that the country's outdated mapping resources leave Canadian citizens at substantial financial risk.

How to tell if you need flood insurance

Your normal home insurance policy may not include protection for damage caused by overland floods. Overland floods are instances when water overflows from rivers, lakes, or streams and seeps into homes through windows, doors, and cracks. Flood insurance has only recently been available in Canada, spurred by the devastation wrought by the 2013 Calgary floods.

According to the Government of Canada, floods can occur in any region at any time of year. Areas along lake and coastal shorelines are most susceptible, however, heavy rainfall can cause flash flooding in any low lying area. This is particularly a problem in the spring when the ground is frozen or already saturated from melting snow.

With climate change and increased urbanization making floods a more common occurrence in Canada, it is frustrating that the nation's mapping resources are not as reliable as they should be. Ideally, a homeowner should be able to look up their property on a flood map to see if it lies in a flood plain or not. Because of the lack of quality flood maps, you may have to rely on other resources when making a decision to buy flood insurance.

Do your research to see if there is a history of flooding in your area. Survey your property to determine whether or not you are in a low-lying area that could be prone to flash floods. If you are in close proximity to bodies of water, flood insurance might be worth careful consideration.

Flood prevention tips

Whether you opt to purchase additional flood insurance or not, there are a number of things you can do to protect your home and mitigate damage caused by flooding:

  • Apply a sealant around basement windows to keep water out. Be sure to grade your soil at an incline away from basement windows.
  • Ensure gutter downspouts extend at least two meters away from basement walls.
  • Install rain barrels to collect and store excess rainwater.
  • Clean your gutters regularly so that they are free of leaves and other debris.
  • Place basement appliances such as your washer and dryer on a raised surface. Keep other valuables off of the floor as well.
  • Regularly check that your sump pump is in working order and install a battery-operated backup.

Following the above tips can help protect your home and your belongings in the event of a flood. While you may not need flood insurance, you still should compare home insurance policies to find one that provides you with optimal coverage.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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