Most North American cities “lousy” at flood preparedness: JLT Canada Public Sector Summit

Aging infrastructure cannot cope with increasing weather events

The majority of municipalities are ill prepared to deal with flooding, says Gord Hume, president of Hume Communications Inc.

“North American cities have generally done a lousy job at preparing for flooding, fire and catastrophic events,” Hume said. “We have not invested sufficiently in the smart things.”

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Speaking at a panel discussion on building great cities at the JLT Canada Public Sector Summit, Hume noted that aging infrastructure can’t keep up with the growing frequency of floods. He added that municipalities are the first line of defence against flooding and other weather-related events.

“I have a growing belief that municipalities are really the tip of the spear in the climate change war,” he said. “If we can’t win that in our towns and cities, we’re not going to win it as a nation.”

Jeff Reitsma, the practice lead with 30 Forensic Engineering, acknowledged the expense of updating city storm water infrastructure to deal with worsening extreme weather events.

“To build hard concrete infrastructure for large storms is very costly, and by its nature, you rarely use it,” he said. “It’s a tough sell.”

Reitsma suggested cities could consider investing in green infrastructure to divert storm water naturally and help mitigate the risk of flooding.

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