Understanding Risks

Before implementing the necessary measures to manage flood risks, it is essential to properly understand these risks and be able to accurately identify them. To do so, it is important take stock of each of the risk components, which entails properly understanding the hazard, mapping flood zones and identifying vulnerabilities. It is in this context that the government launched INFO-Crue, a project falling under the responsibility of Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC). This initiative aims on one hand to identify flood zones for a large portion of southern Quebec in a coherent manner while taking into account climate change. It will allow stakeholders and users of the territory to better understand their environment and take well-informed decisions.  

INFO-Crue also establishes a real-time forecasting system that will provide authorities and the public with a map of sectors that may be prone to flooding within the next few days. Tool sharing will help ensure clearer, more transparent communication of current flood risks in order to facilitate informed decision-making by stakeholders.


Research project

Support for INFO-Crue

In the aftermath of the events of Spring 2017, the Government of Quebec approached various players to initiate reflection on how best to manage flooding risks across the province in the context of a changing climate. This brainstorming activity culminated in a number of important realizations, including the need for comprehensive and up-to-date mapping of flood zones throughout Quebec that would foster adequate awareness of the risk inherent in land management decisions and the implementation of adaptation solutions. Following this exercise, the project INFO-Crue was launched.sur pied.


Other initiatives aimed at deepening the understanding of risk include developing efficient means of communication and awareness-raising, improving accessibility to information for different audiences, encouraging the development and maintenance of flood expertise and, more broadly, facilitating the appropriation of flood-related knowledge and information by citizens, experts and decision-makers.


Vigilance | Flood Water Monitoring

The Quebec Ministry of Public Security carries out permanent monitoring in collaboration with municipal authorities and observers in the field. This mapping tool can be used by the general public to search available data.

Reducing Vulnerability and Exposure

Historically, engineered solutions to mitigate the risks of flooding in Quebec entailed the construction of protective structures and the installation of technical systems such as dikes, dams, flood protection walls or diversion channels. Designed to control the flow of watercourses and channel flood waters away from homes and communities, these structures, which have often demonstrated their effectiveness in the past, have also shown significant shortcomings in terms of their durability, their incapacity to completely eliminate risk and the false sentiment of security they sometimes create. 

Currently, both in Quebec and internationally, approaches are gradually being adopted that combine flood risk management and the development of natural systems not to address a single issue, but rather a multitude of environmental, socio-economic and cultural challenges. One such approach is to set aside flood plains for more natural uses such as parks, as the latter are more compatible with the natural evolution of the river and provide a greater number of citizens with access to the waterfront. Another example is to preserve wetlands for the sake of flood control, as they not only have the capacity to partially absorb flood waters, but also have a positive impact on water quality, water table replenishment, biodiversity, ecotourism activities, etc.

Photo :  Flood Ready Vermont, 2019


This integrated vision of flood adaptation solutions also includes ways to accommodate living spaces already in flood zones, to rethink our landscape and real estate architecture, and to prevent new vulnerabilities from emerging in exposed regions. 

For example, safeguarding the built landscape with the aim of averting potential flood damage such as building on stilts, raising crawl spaces, enhancing the water resistance of structures, etc. Beyond building protection, it is important to think about reinforcing the resilience of the network as a whole (roadways, aqueducts, sewerage, etc.). Comprehensive planning and landscaping at the scale of part of a neighbourhood or a section of road should be applied in tandem with protection solutions. Examples of such solutions include permeable soils, retention ponds, infiltration trenches and green spaces (green roofs, urban parks, rain gardens, etc.), none of which is exclusive, as testified for instance by the Portes du Vercors ecodistrict project in France.



Les Portes du Vercors

Supported by Grenoble-Alpes Métropole, the Portes du Vercors project calls for the development of a mixed eco-district in the French communes of Fontaine and Sassenage.


While accommodation approaches aim to mitigate vulnerability, avoidance approaches will proactively prevent the construction of homes, communities or infrastructure within flood zones. 

Residents of flood-prone areas may also adopt preventive behaviours at the building level such as refraining from storing valuables in the basement, installing check valves, owning a pump, raising foundations and doorways, modifying the relief of the property for enhanced drainage, etc. It goes without saying that municipalities and RCMs will play an important role in ensuring that residential buildings and lots are better adapted to flooding, notably through urban planning bylaws and permitting.

Rethinking Governance and Land Planning

Scientific literature on risk management emphasizes the importance of selecting flood solutions in a collaborative manner by working together with public, community, private and citizen organizations, as the flooding issue affects not only individuals, but also elements of the system that are managed collectively. Flood risk management shows superior results when needs are coordinated between the different levels of intervention and the governance structure is clear. 

Under this collaborative approach to governance, multiple solutions can be envisaged to address multiple inter-related problems. For example, as part of its flood protection plan (“Plan de protection du territoire face aux inondations”), Quebec’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing adopts a collaborative vision through the establishment of regional project offices for planning flood plain management at the watershed scale. This will ensure that the most promising interventions will be targeted according to a comprehensive, integrated vision.

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