By: Rachel Krueger
As spring beckons, the longer days and return of green life only bring me a sense of mild dread. I’m bracing for the inevitable.
Floods that leave a community with more than a lingering memory of devastation from years past. Floods that increasingly devastate communities year, after year, after year.
Two springs ago, communities across eastern Ontario and parts of central Ontario experienced record-breaking floodwaters. Petawawa, Ottawa, and Bracebridge were just a few examples of regions that declared a state of emergency due to major flooding. Farther from home, news of spring floods ravaging cities in the Midwestern United States and provinces in Iran also dominated headlines. It was around this time that I began my co-op position as a Stormwater Drainage Assistant with the City of Mississauga, and I was struck by the relevance of my job.
The Stormwater Drainage Assistant contributes to the City’s year-over-year monitoring program of built stormwater infrastructure and natural infrastructure. Most days, this involved suiting up in chest-waders and walking through portions of the urban watershed (which was, to my surprise, teeming with life! We regularly came across Green Frogs and Great Blue Herons.) Importantly, the monitoring program allows the City to catch potential deficiencies in stormwater systems before they become issues. Maintaining the integrity of stormwater resources helps ensure that people, property, and the environment are protected when heavy rainfall and ensuing floods occur.
My colleague walking through a creek.
Stormwater monitoring is as much a powerful risk reduction tool as it is a job that fosters environmental stewardship in co-op students and the public alike. Though my colleague and I were often alone while out in the field, the honking of a distant car or a glimpse of a billboard on the horizon would remind us of our location—wading through a creek nestled in a modern, rapidly expanding city. Other reminders came in the form of interactions with the public. Speaking with City of Mississauga residents often sparked in them a curiosity about stormwater resources and flood protection. It was these conversations that inspired the research I’m pursuing presently in my graduate studies.
Working with the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, I hope to improve the ways we communicate flood risk to Canadian homeowners and tenants so as to achieve widespread action on home flood protection. My focus on home flood protection is a small piece in the puzzle that is flood risk management in the time of climate change. Early warning systems, improved availability of floodplain maps, and accessible flood insurance coverage are just some of the important actions needed to achieve adaptive approaches to flood-risk governance in Canada. Fortunately, a wide array of stakeholders including research groups, conservation authorities, insurers, and municipalities are working toward practical solutions.
I sometimes find it hard to sum up the excitement about flood risk research while I’m staring at a screen. On those days, I long for my time in the field, when I learned and explored in the heart of the City of Mississauga’s network of creeks and rivers.
Me holding a crayfish in a canalized creek.
Me with some waterfalls in Sawmill Creek.
Feature image source: Pexels