RISK ANALYSIS OF PHYSICAL, SOCIO-ECONOMIC, AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF FLOODS – PROJECTS

The structural (or physical), environmental, and socio-economic effects of floods are complex and vary greatly depending on their location, duration, depth and speed, as well as the vulnerability of the affected natural (or constructed) area. Flooding is a significant natural hazard that can cause death, damage and loss to property and infrastructure, as well as public disruption. Indeed, floods can cause dangerous landslides, loss of crops and livestock, disruption of normal drainage systems, spillage of raw sewage and rapid flushing of chemicals, industrial and urban toxic materials and nutrients into waterways. However, flooding can also provide some ecosystem services and can bring some benefits that are often overlooked. Benefits include recharging groundwater, enhancing nutrient cycling, increasing fish production, creating wildlife habitat, refilling wetlands, rejuvenating soil fertility, and maintaining recreational areas. As our understanding of the benefits of environmental flooding and provision of ecosystem services improves, there is a need for more information on the environmental consequences of floods, and the balance between mitigating floods and preserving the water flows and levels required to conserve natural ecosystems and enhance environmental and human well-being (Poff et al. 2003). In particular, an improved understanding of the links between ecosystem services and floods is required as well a better understanding of flood effects on agricultural lands, and community water systems. In general, the physical impacts of floods and risk levels have been documented to a greater extent than the environmental and socio-economic aspects. This may explain why the environmental and socio-economic consequences of flooding are usually not incorporated in management policies or in flood impact estimation models. This theme will provide much needed information to improve our understanding of the social, economic and environmental effects of floods.

LEADER:
Professor Marguerite Xenopoulos (Trent University)
Department of Biology
Email:  mxenopoulos@trentu.ca

CO-LEADER:
Professor Amin Elshorbagy (University of Saskatchewan)
Department of Civil and Geological Engineering
Email:  amin.elshorbagy@usask.ca

PROJECT 4-1

ROLE OF FLOODS ON AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM CONDITION

LEADER:

Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos (Trent University)
Email:  mxenopoulos@trentu.ca

CO-INVESTIGATORS:

Dr. Elena Bennett (McGill University)
Email:  elena.bennett@mcgill.ca

Dr. Altaf Arain (McMaster University)
Email:  arainm@mcmaster.ca

Objectives: The objectives of this project are to: i) examine the effects of flooding or high water levels on surface water quality of forested, urban and agriculture catchments; ii) quantify nutrient budgets of flooded forested and agriculture catchments; iii) analyze the frequency of flood events in regulated and non-regulated rivers and their relation to ecosystem condition; and iv) link flooding events or high water levels to ecosystem structure (e.g., biodiversity) and function (e.g., primary production) and aquatic ecosystem services.

Significance: Floods play an important role in maintaining key ecosystem functions and biodiversity (Bunn and Arthington, 2002; Poff et al., 2003). Large floods are often tightly coupled to ecological life history cycles (e.g., breeding, feeding and migration) and link the river with the land by distributing water, nutrients and sediments, recharging groundwater and filling wetlands. But floods also increase loading of nutrients into aquatic ecosystems increasing the risk of eutrophication (Hrdinka et al., 2012; Schindler et al., 2012).

Outcomes: We will provide much needed scientific information, data analysis, and links between flooding and aquatic ecosystem condition to facilitate the development of management and conservation plans.

Publications

PROJECT 4-3

MODELLING-BASED INTEGRATED ASSESSMENT OF FLOOD IMPACTS ON URBAN AND RURAL WATER RESOURCES SYSTEMS

LEADER:

Dr. Amin Elshorbagy (University of Saskatchewan)
Email:  amin.elshorbagy@usask.ca

CO-INVESTIGATORS:

Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos (Trent University)
Email:  mxenopoulos@trentu.ca

Dr. Yiping Guo (McMaster University)
Email:  guoy@mcmaster.ca

Objectives: This project will: i) investigate and predict the hydrologic connectivity in a watershed under high flow conditions; ii) build a suitable systems modelling approach to simulate a flood and its spatial extent in a watershed and its effect on the various watershed components (e.g., agricultural lands, lakes and wetlands, rural development, and water supply); iii) predict nutrient loadings into surface waters due to floods; and iv) simulate the effect of extreme rainfall on urban drainage infrastructure and storm water detention facilities.

Significance: It is important to develop an approach that allows for quantifying and predicting the impacts of floods on the physical environment in rural and urban areas in an integrated and comprehensive way. Based on the integrated assessment of the flood impacts, watershed authorities can evaluate and prioritize planning and action measures.

Outcomes:  This project will produce a physical system modelling approach for assessing the integrated impacts of floods in rural, urban, and semi-urban watersheds. This tool can be used by conservation authorities and municipalities for land use development planning.

Publications

PROJECT 4-4

FLOOD RISK ANALYSIS AND ITS UTILITY FOR MANAGEMENT DECISIONS

LEADER:

Dr. Amin Elshorbagy (University of Saskatchewan)
Email:  amin.elshorbagy@usask.ca

CO-INVESTIGATORS:

Dr. Paulin Coulibaly (McMaster University)
Email:  couliba@mcmaster.ca

Dr. John Eyles (McMaster University)
Email:  eyles@mcmaster.ca

Dr. Nikolaos Yiannakoulias (McMaster University)
Email:  yiannan@mcmaster.ca

Objectives: The objectives of this project are to: i) develop a systematic approach for analyzing and quantifying flood risk, along with its uncertainty; and ii) assess the utility of flood risk quantification for management and planning decisions.

Significance:  Various flood risk indicators have been developed without indication of the associated level of uncertainty. The focus of this project is to fill that gap by proposing a systematic approach for quantifying flood risk along with the associated uncertainty. This is particularly important for decision making based on flood risk indicators.

Outcomes: The research will produce a systematic approach for developing risk indicators with uncertainty estimates that water resources and disaster managers can use for decision making. The indices will allow for quantifying the value of improving and investing in various aspects of modelling, monitoring, and damage mitigation measures.

Publications

PROJECT 4-5

ASSESSING AND PLANNING FOR THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF FLOODS

LEADER:

Dr. Nikolaos Yiannakoulias (McMaster University)
Email:  yiannan@mcmaster.ca

Co-investigators:

Dr. John Eyles (McMaster University)
Email:  eyles@mcmaster.ca

Dr. Marguerite Xenopoulos (Trent University)
Email:  mxenopoulos@trentu.ca

Dr. Amin Elshorbagy (University of Saskatchewan)
Email:  amin.elshorbagy@usask.ca

Objectives: This project will develop a framework for generating holistic flood vulnerability indicators that account for socio-economic effects of floods.

Significance: Existing flood vulnerability indices in Canada do not account for the socio-economic impact of floods. This project will fill that gap by introducing a framework for estimating flood vulnerability indices that account for the socio-economic impacts of floods.

Outcomes: We will determine the costs and benefits of flooding and living in flood-prone areas to develop flood vulnerability indicators and a scale of severity. This information will be useful to decision makers, private home owners and insurance companies.

Publications