Aqua dams: Exploring preventative tools for future flooding in Canada
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV News Ottawa's Michael O'Byrne
Published Tuesday, May 7, 2019 2:06PM EDT
As the water begins to recede in regions of Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick following weeks of widespread flooding, attention has turned to future prevention and what tools are proving most effective at keeping residents and their properties safe.
While sandbags are the most commonly used line of defence against invading water -- due to their relatively low cost and availability -- they’re not always the most reliable, according to flood management experts.
The sandbags can become saturated with water if they’re exposed to it for too long, Tamsin Lyle, a principal engineer at Ebbwater Consulting, told The Canadian Press last month. She said the sandbags become relatively ineffective during prolonged flooding events and they can easily spring leaks.
So what are the alternatives?
When the Ottawa River reached historic highs at the end of April, a couple of neighbours in the hard-hit community of Cumberland, located in Ottawa’s east end, pooled their resources to buy an aqua dam.
The large rubber tube fills with floodwater to provide a protective barrier, but it’s not cheap.
The neighbours spent $70,000 to purchase the aqua dam and the investment appears to have paid off, as the homes remained relatively dry with only minor flood damage in the basements.
“The barricade seems to be holding up very well,” Genevieve Landry told CTV News Ottawa of the aqua dam they purchased.
The aqua dam also appears to be more convenient, only taking approximately 45 minutes to fill a 30-metre section.
The Cumberland residents are not the only ones trying out the rubber tubes. The province of Manitoba spent millions of dollars on 300 aqua dams to use during the devastating floods there in 2011. Arranged side-by-side, the rubber tubes would have covered nine kilometres of land.
The city of Courtenay, B.C., located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, bought its first aqua dam in 2015.
“It’s probably, compared to some of the other things we could do, a much lower cost, and if it works, a beneficial sort of system,” Mayor Larry Jangula said.
Back in Ottawa, Mayor Jim Watson said it’s up to the province to purchase protective flood barrier equipment, such as aqua dams.
On the national level, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale entertained the idea while visiting the aqua dam in Cumberland.
“It obviously seems to have performed remarkably well for one particular neighbourhood so yes, we need to look at all of those possible innovations for the future,” he told reporters last week.
Landry said she welcomes the government taking inspiration from the aqua dam she purchased with her neighbour.
“Clearly, our government or authorities are seeing this as a priority as an urgency,” she said.