In many vulnerable places worldwide, catastrophic flood levels normally expected once a century - similar to those recently witnessed in Pakistan and Australia - can now be expected every 20 years instead, he says.
A number of northern British Columbia communities - the town of Smithers, for example - have endured "1 in 100 year" floods three times in the past two decades - disasters that underscore the need for new techniques and ideas in municipal planning and road design.
"Our water infrastructure is not designed to cope with this new reality," says Dr. Schreier.
Indeed, according to fellow conference speaker Robert Tremblay, Research Director of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, claims resulting from extreme weather have increased 20-fold in the past 30 years and flood-related claims now consistently exceed fire and wind insurance claims every year.
Dr. Schreier recommends vulnerable communities everywhere follow the example of several municipalities and adopt a new approach to road and street design.
Curbs, drains and impermeable surfaces are being replaced where possible with grassy shoulder depressions or swales that collect and absorb rainwater while directing excess runoff into constructed wetlands or storm water retention ponds.
Not only does this approach mitigate flood damage, polluted runoff normally drained via pipes into lakes and rivers is instead filtered and cleaned as it sinks through the ground, helping compensate the extensive loss of wetlands to development.
Other low-cost innovations include home driveway designs and materials that allow most precipitation to be absorbed instead of running onto streets and roads.
Another idea is to allow the intentional flooding o
|Contact: Terry Collins|
Canadian Water Network