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Damage and Costs Caused by Flooding in Manitoba Could Be Reduced by Investing in Natural Infrastructure

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WINNIPEG, September 19, 2018—The damage caused by the frequent flooding that Manitoba endures annually could be significantly mitigated if more were invested to maintain its natural infrastructure, such as wetlands and riverbeds.

This is according to a new report from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation and the Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Combatting Canada’s Rising Flood Costs found that while natural infrastructure abounds in Canada, and can provide multiple benefits to the environment and human wellbeing, it is often underutilized in favour of more traditional—and often more expensive—built infrastructure projects.

The financial impacts of climate change and extreme weather events, such as flooding, are being increasingly felt by homeowners and communities across Manitoba, and Canada.

In fact, in the last 12 months alone, insurance companies have forked out $1.5 billion to help Canadians cope with the impacts of a changing climate. In Manitoba, an ongoing $950-million class action lawsuit has been brought forward by 4,000 residents of four First Nations following severe flooding in spring 2011 that resulted in damage to homes and mass evacuations.

Investment in natural infrastructure as a means to reduce those damages is not only often more affordable, it can provide a whole host of other benefits such as improved water quality, habitat for wildlife and recreation.

“Natural infrastructure can be more cost efficient than built infrastructure,” said Anne Hammill, director, Resilience program, International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“This is critical because with climate change, more frequent and intense weather events are becoming the new normal and leading to escalating costs. Natural infrastructure can offset millions in spending and offer multiple environmental and social benefits compared to traditional grey infrastructure systems.”

Here in Manitoba, we are home to abundant networks of wetlands that naturally absorb excess water during times of flooding, however, we haven’t always been diligent about protecting them.

“Action needs to be taken not only to restore the many defunct water retention sites in our province,” said Dimple Roy, director, Water Policy, International Institute for Sustainable Development, “but also actively manage those that still exist so they are effective to their full capacity and reduce the drain on finances that flood damage brings.”

“The report cites an impressive case study from a water restoration project to Pelly’s Lake right here in Manitoba where the ultimate benefits to water quality and lake health far outweighed the operating costs. There is no reason why this cannot be replicated—and the gains amplified—throughout the rest of the province.”

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For more information, or to arrange interviews, contact:

Sumeep Bath, Communications Manager, IISD Experimental Lakes Area, or +1 (204) 958 7700 ext 740

About the International Institute for Sustainable Development

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an independent think tank that delivers the knowledge to act. Our mission is to promote human development and environmental sustainability. Our big-picture view allows us to address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges facing our planet today – ecological destruction, social exclusion, unfair laws and economic and social rules, a changing climate. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa and Toronto, our work impacts lives in nearly 100 countries.

For more information, please contact: or +1 (613) 238 2296 ext. 114