It’s flood season again. Simon Mitchell, WWF-Canada’s Freshwater Lead Specialist, lives steps away from the Saint John River in New Brunswick, so we asked him how our restoration work can help provide nature-based solutions to this increasing problem.Why is flooding in the Saint John River getting worse?
Flooding is a complex issue that’s affected by many things. Over the last couple of years, we’ve had a slightly higher than average snowpack. Development and land clearing have also changed the landscape and we’re seeing warmer temperatures sooner than what we’re used to. When all of this is accompanied by rainfall, snow melts more rapidly than ever before. Basically, the river system becomes overwhelmed and floods occur.
What are the effects of this?
While all of Canada is coping with the pandemic, many still face the same risks from extreme weather that come every spring. Communities, businesses and households are experiencing flooding, closures and property destruction. Many people are forced to leave their homes during this time, which is a challenge at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic.
We’re seeing flood water in places we aren’t used to seeing it, and many of these places don’t have the infrastructure they need to deal with flooding. Wildlife are at risk, too, because flooding shifts their habitats — sometimes eliminating it entirely. Just like when we face displacement, wildlife are threatened by flooding, and these are often species that are already at risk.
How is WWF’s restoration work providing solutions?
We’re working to rebuild community by partnering with groups along the river and prioritizing actions with the greatest benefit to both wildlife and people. Unlike the traditional human-engineered “grey infrastructure” approach, protecting forests and developing natural “green infrastructure” improves water retention and increases biodiversity.
We’re also working closely with municipalities to help them develop resilient and climate-friendly municipal plans and bylaws so that communities can bounce back from flooding even better in the future. Finally, we’re working with insurance stakeholders to help identify the role they can play in climate resilience.
How can this work help other communities across Canada?
We’re working in the Saint John River while also figuring out how to scale-up our flood reduction work. Through a partnership with RSA Canada (a property casualty insurer) and Brock University, we are using all the lessons we’ve learned to help other at-risk communities implement similar measures and actions.
This was originally published in Fieldnotes, WWF-Canada’s newsletter about our evidence-based work finding solutions in the face of an unprecedented crisis in climate change and wildlife loss. Click here to subscribe and get it direct to your inbox.