Study finds Canada’s flood maps are old, unavailable, and unintelligible

Published: April 30, 2019

Updated: June 3, 2019

Author: Luke Jones

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The University of Waterloo has released research results that show information on flood maps is largely useless, even if Canadian homeowners could see them. Accessing flood maps is overly difficult, the study finds, while information included on them is often outdated and unintelligible.

University of Waterloo professor of environment and economics, Jason Thistlethwaite, led the study in a effort to better understand Canada’s flood maps. He looked at 280 maps across the country’s municipalities and found most were lacking. Either the maps were obsolete, were unavailable to the public, or were just nonsense.

Researchers say the flood maps were originally created for town planners and engineers, so their information offer little interest to homeowners. Thistlethwaite points out maps were stored on old web browsers and some maps were not available to the public at all.

“It’s absurd as an industrialized country; we actually don’t have high quality flood maps to let people know about their exposure to flood risk,” he told CBC News.

Even if residents are not situated near a body of water, there could still be a risk of flooding, Thistlethwatie cautioned. He says urban flooding risk is real because of aging infrastructure in population centres.

“We actually don’t have a very good idea of where that risk is at all in Canada,” Thistlethwaite added.

Among the recommendations from the study is for homeowners to ask municipalities directly for flood maps and information. However, Thistlethwaite says the best course is to purchase flood insurance to offset the risk.