Flooding model ready to go

Insurance companies don’t like floods.

Mostly because a major flood can put an insurance company out of business.

That’s likely why The Co-operators, one of the largest insurance and financial services organizations in Canada, is supporting a project that could reduce the risk of floods on the Prairies.

The Co-operators have contributed to the Aquanty Project, a hydrologic model for the Assiniboine River basin, with the broader goal of mitigating flood and drought risk within the watershed.

The Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association (MFGA) is leading the Aquanty Project.

“The MFGA Aquanty… will help plan for future flood and drought events by examining the basin’s water movement and highlighting the role of forages and grasslands,” the MFGA said in a statement.

The model-building part of the project is now complete. The MFGA is “finalizing the public access components” of the project, so groups and land managers can use the model.

“As floods increase in frequency and severity in communities across Canada, up-to-date flood models are critical to help municipalities and Canadians better understand the risks they are facing,” said Barbara Turley-McIntyre, The Co-operators vice-president. “The MFGA Aquanty project is a great example of the kind of analysis that can help us mitigate and adapt to the changing nature of floods in Canada.”

The Assiniboine River basin comprises three watersheds, the Souris River, the Qu’Appelle and the Assiniboine, and covers parts of Saskatchewan, North Dakota and Manitoba.

The Aquanty Project came about following the floods of 2011 and 2014 in the Assiniboine River basin.

In both years water in the rivers, especially the Souris and Assiniboine, rose higher and more rapidly than expected, causing massive flooding to communities and farmland in the region.

The 2011 flood was particularly destructive. The flooding along the Souris River was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of North Dakota, as floodwaters destroyed more than 4,000 homes in Minot.

There was also unprecedented flooding around Lake Manitoba in 2011, damaging cottages, homes and agricultural land around the lake.

The Manitoba government estimated that the 2011 flood cost the province around $1 billion, with most of the money spent on agricultural assistance, disaster assistance and flood fighting.

Some experts blamed the removal of wetlands and cropland drainage for the flooding. They argued the land was retaining less water and more water was entering creeks and rivers, thus exacerbating flooding.

The Aquanty Project, which began a couple of years ago, has two main goals:

• To develop a user-friendly hydrologic model for the basin.

• To understand how perennial forages, grasslands and wetlands affect the hydrology of the basin, under flood and drought conditions.

The Co-operators financial support of $10,000 might not seem like a lot of money, but it does signal that flood and drought mitigation is a major issue.

“To have such a prominent player in Canada’s insurance industry come forward… really speaks volumes about the potential of our MFGA Aquanty for the people, properties and communities in the ARB (Assiniboine River Basin),” said Darren Chapman, MFGA chair.

About 1.5 million people live within the Assiniboine River basin and the agriculture industry, within the region, is worth about $10 billion annually.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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