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Q&A: Why are some areas of Toronto more prone to flooding?

Last Updated Jul 28, 2016 at 8:01 pm EDT

Severe thunderstorms in Toronto on Wednesday night caused a deluge in parts of the city — especially in areas like the Beaches whose residents have become used to seeing flooded streets. CityNews asked Rehana Rajabali of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority what’s causing the flooding and what homeowners can do to protect their properties.

CityNews: Why does flooding seem to happen so frequently in particular areas, like the Beaches?

Rajabali: Generally ‎older neighbourhoods, when they were built, didn’t have the same infrastructure design standards or stormwater management practices that we have today. So, the tools and methods we use now mean that new development, and redevelopment, follow a more sophisticated approach. The other factor is topography — the laws of gravity apply. So, water will pool in low-lying areas.

CN: What kind of infrastructure can the City build to prevent or minimize flooding?

RR: A combination of on-site controls, like rain barrels, gardens and retention areas; conveyance controls, like bioswales alongside the roadways; and pond and storage cisterns. Overall, the idea is to help mimic the natural system, where more of the rain infiltrates into the ground.

CN: What can the average homeowner do to make the best of the situation?

RR: Disconnecting downspouts from the storm sewer and using rain barrels and clearing debris from catchbasins. Planting rain gardens or using permeable pavers for your driveway are also a great way to encourage more water to naturally infiltrate.  Most importantly of all, stay safe. Watercourses respond very fast to rainfall due to urban nature of the GTA. Stay back from fast-flowing water, and do not attempt to drive through flooded underpasses.