Yet despite the risks, home buyers are still willing to pay a premium to live close to or beside local rivers, Boundary Bay or the Salish Sea, in areas known as 'floodplains'.
• Flood insurance
• Why isn't overland flooding as a result of a natural disaster
covered by home insurance?
• What can home buyers and home owners do to protect
• Home owners can reduce their chances of flood damage
• Government help for flood victims
• For more information
Rising waters in the spring have been with us forever. But in recent years, they are aggravated by climate change which causes melting ice caps and rising sea levels, more severe snowstorms on local mountains into late spring, and extreme downpours of rain for longer time periods.
In the Lower Mainland’s recent history, there have been two major floods. In 1894, half the province was under water. In 1948, the Fraser River dikes failed and 2,000 home owners lost their homes and 16,000 residents were evacuated.
Both floods followed weather conditions similar to those we’re seeing almost every year now – unusually cold winters and springs with high snow packs, sudden warm spring weather, record rainfalls and high tides.
In 2007, water levels on the Fraser River almost breached the dikes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and water was high from the Birkenhead River in Pemberton to the Alouette River in Pitt Meadows. With sea levels expected to increase substantially – as much as one metre – in the coming years, climate experts are predicting we can expect more of the same.
In Canada, flood insurance isn’t available to home owners. Other water damage is covered, such as sewer backup and burst pipes, but for overland flooding, home owners are out of luck.
“Insurance is designed to spread risk among many policy holders. Generally, flooding is a risk for only a small percentage of the population – those who live on flood plains or in floodprone areas. As a result, the price of flood coverage would be very high for the small number of people who would need it.”
Source: Insurance Bureau of Canada
While a flood can happen anywhere it rains, home buyers should assess flood risks in the area where they plan to buy. Home buyers can:
1. Review floodplain maps for specific areas, at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd/data_searches/fpm/reports/index.html. Select Region 2 - Lower Mainland.
2. Talk to the local municipality about the risk and the history of flooding in the area. top of page
1. Reading material about flood reduction supplied by the local municipality.
2. Walking around the home after heavy rainfall to see where water is pooling. If water flows toward the home, the owner should get professional advice about directing water away from the home.
3. Cleaning gutters and downspouts.
4. Making sure the home’s drain tiles work. The basement will flood if tiles are old or plugged and need replacing.
5. Flood proofing the basement or ground floor, which involves sealing the foundation.
6. Installing backflow valves on basement floor drains, washing machine drains, toilets and sink drains.
7. Locating the storm sewer on the road. It will look like a large grate and is designed to carry storm related water runoff. If it’s plugged with leaves, the owner should phone the local municipal public works department and they will clean it.
8. Buying a sump pump and testing it so it’s ready to be used if needed during heavy rain storms.
9. Contacting the municipality to find out where sand and bags are available should a flood occur.
If there is a flood
Document damage to the property. Take photos or videos, and keep detailed records.
Home owners, tenants, small business owners and farm owners who are victims of a flood, may be eligible for assistance through the Provincial Emergency Program’s Disaster Financial Assistance Program.
For information on applying for financial help after a disaster, disaster financial assistance guidelines, and compensation, visit www.pep.bc.ca/dfa_claims/dfa.html. There is also information about how to clean up after a flood, available in English, Punjabi and Chinese.
• The BC Ministry of Environment has updated their floodplain maps by community at www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd/public_safety/flood/maps.html (Scroll down for the maps).
• BC Ministry of Environment, Water Stewardship Division at www.env.gov.bc.ca/wsd
• BC Emergency Preparedness at www.pep.bc.ca
• Municipalities regularly provide information about emergency preparedness on their websites, so check your local municipality’s website.
• Handbook for Reducing Basement Flooding, www.iclr.org/images/Basement_Flood_Handbook_-_ICLR_-_2009.pdf