Understanding risk: Advancing flood hazard mapping and information in Canada

By Natural Resources Canada, Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation, Ottawa, ON

The magnitude and frequency of floods have increased considerably in recent years as have associated recovery costs. Up-to-date flood maps are essential tools that inform decision-makers by identifying areas at high-risk of flooding, improving land use planning, and informing adaptation and mitigation measures. Canada requires current flood maps to protect lives and properties against its costliest natural disaster.

In 2021 the federal government invested $63.8M in the Flood Hazard Identification and Mapping Program (FHIMP) to complete flood maps of higher-risk areas in Canada and make them available to the public. In partnership with provincial and territorial (PT) governments, this program is led by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) with support from Public Safety Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. These efforts are aligned with the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada to better prevent, mitigate, predict, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters.

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, recently highlighted funding programs that form part of the Action Plan under Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy, which includes expanding the FHIMP to advance nation-wide flood hazard coverage. NRCan will provide detailed information once the program expansion launches.

Instituting agreements with all provinces and territories

PT governments are eligible recipients for cost-sharing under the FHIMP. They may collaborate with and redistribute funding to eligible entities such as municipal or other local governments, public sector bodies, private sector bodies, Indigenous communities, or international non-governmental organizations.

To date, 22 agreements are in progress with PTs. Over 200 flood hazard mapping projects—grouped by data acquisition, flood hazard map production, and information dissemination—are currently being implemented in communities across the country.

Image: Number of FHIMP projects (under development and confirmed) per province/territory

Flood Information Dissemination

Accessible information and guidelines help communities understand and manage flood hazards. NRCan’s Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation (CCMEO) is compiling and disseminating flood hazard data and researching innovative ways to advance flood mapping practices relating to geomatics. Here is a sample of related and recent activities:

Historical Flood Events: This data layer holds over 1400 historical flood events in over 7000 locations. This can be a starting point for understanding regional flood trends or for training machinelearning models to predict nation-wide flood risk.
Flood Susceptibility Index: This index applies machine learning techniques to create a national map of areas susceptible (or prone) to flooding. This is based on terrain, hydrography, geology, ecology, and meteorological characteristics.
National Flood Hazard Data Layer: This index of currently available flood hazard information across Canada will be released by 2024. Flood hazard outputs resulting from FHIMP will be included in its index.
Federal Flood Mapping Guidelines Series: This series of evergreen documents addresses different steps involved in creating a flood map and helps by providing standard information to advance flood mapping activities across Canada.

Want to Learn More?

To learn more about flood mapping, visit the NRCan Flood Mapping Website.

For more open geospatial data, visit Open Maps.

If you have any questions about the FHIMP, don’t hesitate to email geoinfo@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca.