Since 2015, only 38.5 per cent of BC communities and First Nations have created or updated floodplain maps, according to new research published by the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) in the 2021 BC Floodplain Maps Inventory Report.

The report, which identifies maps created or updated from 2015 to 2020, updates research BCREA first undertook in 2015. It also provides insights into how local governments and First Nations use floodplain maps, whether they are publicly available and the challenges and opportunities communities experience with floodplain mapping projects.

Floods cause significant damage to human well-being, the environment, properties, and the economy. Floodplain maps, which identify areas that may experience periodic flooding, can support local government decision making by demonstrating the risks to both existing and proposed developments and infrastructure and, in the process, help foster resilient community growth and emergency planning. To be effective, however, floodplain maps must be updated regularly to account for many factors, including changes in development, the environment and climate.

With financial support from the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, BCREA and the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) jointly conducted this study to assess the current level of awareness of flood risks in BC communities. To accomplish this, we conducted a questionnaire survey with local governments and First Nations in which 109 communities participated.

A key finding of this research is the importance of federal and provincial funding programs. While most communities combined more than one funding source, the National Disaster Mitigation Program helped fund almost half of the floodplain mapping projects identified in the report. The provincial Community Emergency Preparedness Fund was used for a quarter of the projects.

Other important findings include:

  • Of the 42 communities that have created or updated floodplain maps since 2015, 24 make those maps publicly available.
  • More than half of the 109 communities that participated in the survey have no or little in-house flood management expertise.
  • The most common reasons for not creating or updating floodplain maps were communities lacking access to funding, expertise, and time.
  • Land use plays a vital role in flooding, though only 62 per cent of the maps created since 2015 meet the British Columbia Flood Hazard Area Land Use Management Guidelines.

The study suggests that, from a consistency, planning and cost management perspective, more work needs to be done at the regional, provincial and national levels. In addition, more efforts such as proper guidelines for the development and upgrading of floodplain maps, standardization of data and information, strong and sufficient financial and technical support will all improve the condition of floodplain mapping in British Columbia.

BCREA initiated this project because of our interest in raising awareness of floodplain maps among governments, REALTORS® and consumers. This information helps communities make good planning and preparedness decisions and helps consumers make informed choices about where they live and work.

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