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Too Small to Fail – How Communities Can Prepare for Bigger Storms

Press Release

November 05, 2018

A new report from the University of Waterloo stresses the importance of community-based projects to reduce increasing flood risk in Canada.

The report, which highlights 11 projects in Vancouver, Calgary, Mississauga, Montreal and Halifax, details how the restoration and preservation of natural infrastructures —such as ponds, large-scale natural gardens, and restored shorelines— can aid communities in protecting themselves from the impacts of flooding.

“In recent years we have seen a dramatic rise in insurable losses related to extreme weather events in Canada, and we have seen insurance payouts average $1.8 billion over the past nine years, up from an average of $400 million just a decade prior,” said Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo. “The increase in costs is due in part to flooding, and this new report identifies some practical mitigation measures municipalities and NGOs can take to limit the impacts of bigger storms that we expect to see in coming years.”

The 11 flood mitigation projects profiled in the report were conducted between 2012 – 2017, with funding from Intact Financial Corporation. The groups supported through this multi-year, multi-dimensional study include (by province): Adaptation to Climate Change Team and Partnership for Water Sustainability (British Columbia); Green Calgary (Alberta); Credit Valley Conservation, Green Communities Canada, and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (Ontario); Nature Action Quebec (Quebec), and Ecology Action Centre  (Nova Scotia).

The report highlights two actions, that are often overlooked, as recommendations to maximize the utility of community-level flood mitigation projects in the future. These include: (1) the need to engage local stakeholders throughout a project’s life-cycle, thus building ongoing understanding and support for the project, and (2) the need to ensure vigilance in monitoring a project, thus enabling appropriate and timely changes in course correction.

The lesson of this report rests with its focus on the utility of small-scale, local flood mitigation projects. Attention is often directed to large-scale initiatives that are deemed ‘too large to fail’, meaning that their collapse would cause catastrophic and irreparable damage.  However, as illustrated in the report, smaller scale, agile efforts to limit flood risk can collectively contribute to ensuring the resiliency of communities – accordingly, the perceived simplicity of such projects should not be undervalued.

The report titled ‘Too Small to Fail: Protecting Canadian Communities from Floods’ is available online.

About the University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo is Canada’s top innovation university. With more than 36,000 students we are home to the world’s largest co-operative education system of its kind. Our unmatched entrepreneurial culture, combined with an intensive focus on research, powers one of the top innovation hubs in the world. Find out more at


Media Contact:

Ryon Jones
University of Waterloo
519-888-4567 ext. 30031


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