Simple steps for homeowners to prevent flooding

CBC K-W’s infrastructure columnist Barbara Robinson says there are steps homeowners can take to prevent flooding on their property.

Larger floods may be due to more development in cities, less space in sewers

Parts of Sydney, Nova Scotia suffered historic flooding on Thanskgiving weekend in 2016. There were 17 homeowners whose homes had no occupancy orders, and they agreed the buildings had to be demolished. (Vaughan Merchant/Canadian Press)

Mild temperatures and melting snow can often be cause for concern for homeowners worried about flooding.

There has been major floods in Windsor, Thunder Bay, Halifax and Toronto over the last year alone.

CBC K-W's infrastructure columnist Barbara Robinson, president of Norton Engineering and former director of engineering for the City of Kitchener, says there hasn't seen a statistical jump in the amount of rain Waterloo region gets, but flooding is becoming more common.

She said the flooding may have to do with trunk storm sewers.

"They're the large sewers that go down to the wastewater treatment plant, to the outlet, and we made them big at the beginning to allow for all the flows," Robinson told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Wednesday.

As cities grow, so too does the amount of water going into those sewers.

"It means there's less empty space in the sewer to accommodate a big storm," she said.
Hundreds of homes in Windsor and Tecumseh had flooded basements after storms pummelled the region in September 2016. (Jason Viau/CBC)

She offered a few tips for homeowners to keep flooding at bay on their own properties. It includes:

  • Ensure water can run off your property. Clear the catch basin on the roadway if it's covered with leaves or snow and ice. "If you have a catch basin in front of your house or downstream, go and shovel it every time," said Robinson.
  • The driveway should be able to drain. If an ice jam develops at the base of the driveway, go chip it away.
  • Keep water away from your house's foundation. The ground should slope away, downspouts should have an elbow and a long extension. Certainly no downspout going directly into the ground. "If you have a downspout going into the ground, it may well be discharging into a sanitary sewer and that is illegal in Ontario. It could contribute to flooding," said Robinson.
  • Inside your home, never pour grease, oil or fat – like bacon grease – down the drain. It can build up in your pipes and clog the plumbing and it's also terrible for the sewer system.
  • Maintain your sump pump. Ensure it is working properly and the area around the pump is clear.

Listen to the whole interview: