Conserving wetlands could save millions in flood damage: U. of Waterloo

Leaving natural wetlands intact could reduce financial cost of floods by 40%

 Leaving wetlands in their natural state could reduce the financial impact of flooding by 40% and save Canadians millions of dollars, says a study by the University of Waterloo.

The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the university ran a simulated major autumn flood in one urban region near the city of Waterloo and one rural area near Mississauga, Ont. The study estimates the total financial impact of the flood if natural wetlands were left intact and if they were not. The calculation was made using average historic insurance claims data and provincial flood damage estimates from Ontario and Alberta.

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The modeling shows that if a major autumn flood were to happen, the financial impact would be 29% lower in rural areas and 38% lower in urban areas with wetlands intact than if they were lost due to development. In dollars, the rural damage would decrease from an estimated $12.4 million to $8.9 million, and the financial impact in urban areas would decrease from $135.6 million to $84.5 million — total savings of $54.6 million. The costs of damage to buildings and their contents were included.

Related: Flood most damaging peril of 2016: Aon

“With the ever-increasing financial burden of flooding to Canadians, it is remarkable that a practical and cost-effective means to alleviate flood risk is readily available — that is, simply leave natural wetlands natural,” says Blair Feltmate, the head of the Intact Centre and an author of the report, in a press release.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Ducks Unlimited Canada funded the study. “The Intact Centre research illustrates quantitatively that wetlands conservation offers a fiscally responsible means to address flooding that should factor prominently into infrastructure development going forward,” says Lynette Mader, Ontario manager of Ducks Unlimited Canada, in a press release.

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Transcontinental Media G.P.