Building Flood Resilience through Research

March 11, 2020

Written by Teghan Acres

Climate change is expected to intensify our global water cycle1. A consequence of this intensification is an increase in flood frequency and associated hazards and risks2. British Columbia has experienced this first hand in recent years. The small Kootenay town of Grand Forks experienced the worst flood since 1948 in 2018 that saw close to 3000 homes evacuated. Increased flooding will be one of the many challenges our cities face as they work to evolve along with the changing climate. An area of study born out of these obstacles is climate change adaptation.

Downtown Grand Forks flooded in 2018, credit: @Aaron_GlobalBC
Shot of the extreme flooding in Grand Forks in 2018, credit: Angelina Ebanks

Hirmand Saffari was led to the Pacific Water Research Centre from his passion for exactly this. Saffari aligned his research interests of climate change adaptation and mitigation with those of Zafar Adeel, PWRC’s Executive Director, to find his Master's thesis project. He completed a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Studies and Geography at the University of Victoria before arriving at SFU. Now, he is focused on the PWRC’s ‘Costing Floods and Other Extreme Events’ project as a researcher. This initiative is in response to the difficulty that municipalities, the insurance industry and other stakeholders face when estimating the cost of a flood event. Methods vary across North America, so the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an intergovernmental organization that supports environmental cooperation among Canada, USA and Mexico, is addressing this challenge by creating a common methodology. Learn more about this project from our blog post, Collaborating to Develop a Common Flood-Costing Methodology.

As a North Vancouver native, Saffari has always been cognizant of environmental issues and the stewardship our planet needs. He is committed to water resources management and finding innovative ways to provide solutions to water-related problems. He is fulfilling this commitment by testing out the new methodology proposed by this project from a Canadian perspective. This includes gathering data from across Canada as well as engaging with communities and local First Nations to gather perspectives and input. The result of this will serve as his Thesis project. Similar case studies will be completed by researchers in Mexico and the USA as well.

Saffari describes the beauty of the project as stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds all working towards a common goal. The new methodology will not only look at direct impacts of flooding but secondary and tertiary as well such as lost wages and public health consequences. The end result can be used by local, regional and national government agencies, many economic sectors including the insurance industry, and Indigenous community organizations  - all while serving users before, during and after flooding events. Climate change adaptation must operate with the idea that our future is becoming more and more unpredictable. But adaptable and forward thinking projects like these will make our cities more nimble to prepare for and respond to environmental challenges. 

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We respectfully acknowledge that the PWRC operates on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. 

1 P. C. D. Milly, R. T. Wetherald, K. A. Dunne, & T. L. Delworth. (2002). Increasing risk of great floods in a changing climate. Nature, 415(6871), 514-517.

2 Ayushi Gaur, Abhishek Gaur, Dai Yamazaki, & Slobodan P. Simonovic. (2019). Flooding Related Consequences of Climate Change on Canadian Cities and Flow Regulation Infrastructure. Water, 11(1), 63.