Predicting flood risks

Research coming out of UBC Okanagan shows urban development in cities has an impact on flooding from heavy rainfall events.

The recently published study found that as cities become more urbanized, land cover changes make for less porous surfaces.

During heavy rainfall, rather than trees, grass and other natural environments sopping up the water, it ends up in the city's drainage system, which can become overloaded.

“By promoting green development like green roof constructions and encouraging the use of porous pavement materials, urban planners can reduce the vulnerability of neighbourhoods currently at risk,” said Yekenalem Abebe, an engineering PhD student at UBC Okanagan and lead author of the study.

Abebe says the costs of flooding from extreme rainfall are upwards of $13 billion in Canada.

With urban populations expected to increase in Canada over the next 50 years, Adebe recommends development approaches that mimic natural systems.

Abebe created a flood vulnerability index that can predict an area's risk of flooding using data from Toronto, but he says its applicable to western communities as well.

“Flood risk mitigation requires a co-ordinated effort between multiple stakeholders,” said Abebe. “We are currently collaborating with municipalities in the Okanagan region to develop a holistic approach looking into climate change, infrastructure management and urban planning.”

More Kelowna News