Manitoba flood-protection engineers will spend the next three years gathering more accurate data about property elevations in three river basins to help protect against high water in the future.

The province and Ottawa announced plans on Thursday to spend a combined $1.6 million over the next three years on elevation surveys along the Souris River in southwestern Manitoba, the Whitemud River in south-central Manitoba and the lower reaches of the Assiniboine River.

The work will involve the use of a pulsed-laser survey technology known as lidar (a name derived from "light" and "radar") to gauge elevations of properties at risk of flooding along the rivers in question.

"You know clearly there is historical data, but this will give us the real science behind where you are in danger if you're going to be building any kind of development," Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said at a press conference at The Forks.

"We also need the science to help us with where we should be flood proofing and perhaps there's some areas where there's just no value in flood proofing, you're better off moving the structure."

Schuler said while the province will share the elevation data with Manitoba municipalities, his government has no plans to dictate property-development plans in low-lying areas, he said.

While development in low-lying areas along the Assiniboine River was discouraged in the years following the 1976 Assiniboine River flood, restrictions were eased in the ensuing decades. This led to the need to protect low-lying properties in Brandon and other areas of the Assiniboine during major floods in 2011 and 2014.

The Souris River, which begins in Saskatchewan near Weyburn before flowing into North Dakota and eventually into Manitoba, also experienced major flooding in 2011. It flows into the Assiniboine River near Treesbank, southeast of Brandon.

The Whitemud River begins at Neepawa and flows through Gladstone and Westbourne before emptying into Lake Manitoba.

The lower Assiniboine runs from Portage la Prairie into Winnipeg and is perched above the flood plain for much of this stretch, making it more difficult to protect against flooding.

- With a file from Meaghan Ketcheson