The Rising Tide
The last few years have clearly shown a significant increase in residential floods and in particular, those caused by sewer backups. The Insurance Bureau of Canada calls water the ‘new fire’ and warn that “Water-related damage and insurance claims are rising across Canada due to the increase in severe weather.” In a 2015 study “The Financial Management of Flood Risk” , the IBC found that “Water-related damage caused the majority of insured catastrophic losses, and was compounded by aging sewer and storm water infrastructure that is increasingly unable to handle today’s increased volume of precipitation.” Last year, flood damage claims rose to nearly $2-billion with sewage backups outpacing all other types of flooding. According to the Canadian Institute of Actuaries The rise has been attributed to several factors including:
- An increase in severe weather events with annual mean precipitation across Canada rising by about 12% over the past 50 years.
- Municipal infrastructure in some areas is being operated beyond its intended life and capacity and is believed to be inadequate for the demands being placed on it, particularly during severe weather.
- Lifestyle and behavioral changes with more finished basements and busier homeowners who have less time to pay attention to maintenance and prevention activities.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, there are currently approximately 2 million Canadian homes at risk with the cost of a sewer backup flood to a homeowner averaging $43,000. That’s a lot for a family to afford, especially when basic home insurance policies don’t always cover sewer backups.
Climate adaptation estimated to cost municipalities $5.3 billion annually
February 27, 2020 (TORONTO)
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) released a report entitled Investing in Canada’s Future: The Cost of Climate Adaptation at the Local Level. The comprehensive report offers striking new data demonstrating the urgent need for new investments in local climate adaptation and the areas where that investment is needed most. This report is the first of its kind to quantify the cost for municipalities.
As the risk of more frequent severe weather events increases due to climate change, many areas across the country are becoming riskier to insure. Municipalities are on the front lines of climate change and require significant investment to protect the public, property and businesses from the devastating effects of climate change.
According to the report’s findings, avoiding the worst impacts of climate change at the municipal level will cost an estimated $5.3 billion per year, or equivalent to 0.26% of Canada’s GDP. Studies have shown that investments in resilient infrastructure have a return on investment of $6 in future averted losses for every $1 spent proactively. Those investments are critical to helping local communities adapt to the changing climate and to reduce risks to Canadians from extreme weather.
Given the scale and size of the long-term cost of adapting to climate change, the report suggests that future research and analysis by all levels of government must consider innovative ways in which private sector capital can be utilized to support enhanced community resilience.
The report also found that Canada’s eastern and northern regions are generally most in need of adaptation investments — with flooding, erosion and melting permafrost posing the greatest risk. Among infrastructure priorities, local buildings, dikes and roads require the most urgent upgrades.
“When homes, businesses, farmland, and public infrastructure are hurt by extreme weather events, Canadians feel it in their communities first. Municipal leaders are prioritizing resiliency in their towns and cities, but there’s more we can and must do. FCM is proud to partner on the development of this crucial new data that underscores the importance of greater investment in municipal adaptation and prevention amidst the effects of a changing environment. All orders of government can work together to protect the public infrastructure that Canadians rely on in their neighbourhoods.”
– Bill Karsten, FCM President
“Across the country, Canadians are feeling the devastating impacts of climate change as the financial and emotional costs continue to rise. Governments need to collaborate in funding the resilient infrastructure needed to protect Canadians from flooding, wind and wildfires. Given the size of the estimated investment needed at the local level, government should consider how the private sector and how private finance can help make our communities more resilient.”
– Don Forgeron, IBC President and CEO
Report: Investing in Canada’s Future: The Cost of Climate Adaptation at the Local Level
Infographic: The Cost of Adaptation
Video: The Cost of Climate Adaptation
Backwater valves are highly effective but they won’t continue to function correctly if neglected. The Insurance Bureau of Canada agrees. ““We recommend having it inspected by a qualified person on a regular basis.”
The single most effective measure for a homeowner to utilize in the prevention of a basement sewage flood is the backwater valve. Installed on the main sewer line of a home, this device is a one-way valve that will prevent water from flowing back into the house through the sewer line.
A backwater valve is a free-floating door that works with the weight of sewage water traveling out of the home and into the municipal sanitary line. When water flowing through the sewage line reverses direction, the door closes, preventing water from backing up into the basement.
If a homeowner does not have a backwater valve installed, then there is nothing preventing sewage water from entering the basement through the mainline. In the event of a sewage backup, the home has no protection. And although the Insurance Bureau of Canada endorses the installation of a backwater valve “as a valuable mitigation technique,” the valve itself is useless if not maintained at regular intervals.
As the sewage passes through the valve, it leaves residual oil, feces, hair, toilet paper, chemicals, and paint–anything you would flush or drain out of your home. In a matter of months, this waste residue will build up in and around the valve door, and sticking the door to housing preventing it from functioning properly. It is inevitable. And if the municipal system should back up, and the backwater valve fails, then the owner of a flooded home may look to blame you, the municipality, and seek compensation. It is far better to educate and motivate homeowners within your riding to participate in a regular maintenance program that will ensure their backwater valves work as they should.
You can think of a backwater valve as having two parts: the valve unit, and the mandatory maintenance required to keep it functioning. When providing homeowners with information on backwater valves, it is very important that you emphasize the importance of having their backwater valves maintained and inspected bi-annually.
Homeowners at Risk
Three factors put the homeowners in your community at risk of a sewage backup flood:
- First, they may not be aware that climate change has led to a rise in precipitation events that substantially increase the risk of flooding. Everyone is now at risk whether you live in a flood zone or not!
- Secondly, they may not have a backwater valve installed on their mainline. Without this device, they are at risk of a sewage flood.
- And last, they may have a backwater valve installed but are not participating in a regular program of inspection and maintenance. Without regular maintenance, every backwater valve will eventually cease to function properly. Not only is the homeowner once again at risk, but they believe they are protected by a functioning backwater valve when that may no longer be the case.
How You Can Help
How can you, the municipality, best help your communities prevent sewer backup flooding?
- Educate and encourage your communities about the dangers of sewer backup floods and teach them how to protect their homes with a backwater valve.
- Disseminate useful tips and information on flood protection to all households within your municipality.
- Encourage and promote valve installation and programs of regular maintenance and inspection by qualified professionals.
- Create a grant or incentive program (or promote an existing one) that will help the homeowners within your municipality bear the installation costs of a backwater valve.
- Book a FREE online presentation at the top of this page so that Backwater Solutions Canada can show you how to reduce Insurance payouts to improve services for clients.
Book a BSC training seminar for you and your staff. Learn a critical base of knowledge that will help your representatives provide the most accurate and relevant information to those within your community.
Backwater Solutions Canada
Backwater Solutions Canada (BSC) is a unique company with a singular focus on the most effective solution to basement floods; backwater valve inspection and maintenance. We are passionate about educating Canadians on the dangers that flood waters pose and the mounting problem it has become in just the past few years and, as part of the solution, offer courtesy flood inspection services to homeowners. Our goal is to ensure that every at-risk home is equipped with a backwater valve and is part of an adequate program of regular maintenance and inspection. We provide peace-of-mind to you and the people within your municipality that when the rains come, they will not have to worry about the possibility of a sewer backup.