Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Climate Change


What is a Flood?

A flood is an overflow of a large amount of water beyond its normal limits over what is normally dry land. Historically, flooding has occurred for a number of reasons such as during periods of heavy rainfall, snow melt, ice jams, high tides, storm surge or a combination of each.

Floods are a natural part of Nova Scotia's environment, but they become a cause for concern when they intersect with communities, damaging lives and property. Some areas of Canada and Nova Scotia are known to be flood prone (Red River in Manitoba, Saint John River in New Brunswick, Salmon and North Rivers in Nova Scotia) and experience recurring floods. In many areas of Nova Scotia, however, flooding can be more difficult to predict. The frequency and severity of any flood event is governed by a complex interaction of weather events, local geography and human factors.

Why is it a problem?

According to data from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) water damage is now the leading cause of property damage in Canada. 2013 was the costliest year ever for Canada's property and casualty insurers who paid out a record $3.2-billion as a result of extreme weather events. There are many examples of catastrophic floods across Nova Scotia, such as the record storm surge flooding along the Bay of Fundy coastline during the Saxby Gale of 1869 and the serious flooding in Oxford and Truro in 2003 resulting from heavy rainfall. Since 1999, the province has provided emergency disaster financial assistance programs on 13 different occasions for weather related events, including flooding. These programs help restore and repair public and private infrastructure that is not insurable, such as damages from overland flooding and storm surge. In Nova Scotia, these payments have exceeded $100 million, but these figures underestimate the true economic, social and environmental impact of the problem.

As a result of climate change sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns and altered frequency and severity of extreme weather events, are anticipated to increase the risk and potential impacts of flooding over time. Flooding is of particular concern when it intersects with communities, putting people's health and prosperity at risk.

What provincial departments are involved?

A number of Nova Scotia government departments and agencies are engaged in flood related activities, including:

Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture (NSDA)

  • The NSDA Land Protection Section is responsible for the management and maintenance of 240 kilometers of tidal dykes (including 260 aboiteau structures) along the Bay of Fundy for the purpose of protecting 17,400 hectares of agricultural land (marshbodies) from sea water incursions.

Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA)

  • Municipal Affairs administers Statements of Provincial Interest (SPI) under the Municipal Government Act. The current SPI on Flood Risk Areas was put in place in 1999, and focused heavily on areas mapped under the Canada-Nova Scotia Flood Damage Reduction Program from the mid 1980’s. This planning tool requires that any municipality with a comprehensive municipal planning strategy must be “reasonably consistent” with the intent of the SPI. The goal of the SPI is to “protect public safety and property and to reduce the requirement for flood control works and flood damage restoration in the floodplains.”
  • Under the Federal Gas Tax Program all municipalities have submitted a Municipal Climate Change Action Plan. Each plan outlines priorities for climate change (adaptation and mitigation), and describes the range of actions the municipality will undertake to address climate impacts. In many communities flooding has been identified as a significant concern, and is a top priority for taking action on climate change adaptation.
  • The eligible project categories under the Federal Gas Tax Program have been expanded to include Disaster Mitigation. Projects that reduce or eliminate long-term impacts and risks associated with natural disasters are now eligible for funding.

Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office (NS EMO)(DMA)

  • NS EMO takes an “all-hazards” approach to emergency management that recognizes that mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery can be used to address the impact of disasters.
  • NS EMO regional staff (Emergency Management Planning Officers - EMPO’s) work with municipal emergency management coordinators to ensure there are emergency management plans in place for each municipality in Nova Scotia.
  • Municipal planning and local knowledge is represented in the development of emergency management plans.
  • The MCCAP process requires municipal emergency management coordinators to work with EMPOs in the development of their respective climate change action plans.

Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (NS TIR)

  • NS TIR is responsible for delivering quality public infrastructure for Nova Scotia and deal with approximately 23,000 km of roads, 4,100 bridges, 7 ferries, and 2,400 buildings.
  • NS TIR designs, constructs and operates this infrastructure in accordance with nationally and internationally recognized standards.
  • NS TIR consults with communities on infrastructure developments. Often this infrastructure is developed or renewed in partnership with the Federal or municipal governments.

Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (NS DNR)

  • Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) operates a long-term program to map the vulnerability of the province’s coast to flooding and erosion.
  • NS DNR is very active throughout Nova Scotia’s watersheds, and forestry activities including road construction, and harvesting can have a large influence on flooding. Through Forest Sustainability Regulations, silviculture programs are in place to establish and tend forest stands within water shed areas, and the Department administers and enforces Wildlife Habitat and Water Course Protection Regulations.

Nova Scotia Environment (NSE)

  • NSE is the lead provincial department partnering with Environment Canada on maintaining and monitoring 28 real-time hydrometric monitoring stations. This information is critical for monitoring rising water in real-time during extreme weather events where flooding is a high-risk.
  • NSE’s Water for Life: Water Resource Management Strategy sets climate change impact studies as a priority action for the department. Flood risk studies will be a key component of studying climate change impacts to the province.
  • The Climate Change Unit provides information and guidance on climatic factors relevant to flooding, such as historic data and future projections of sea levels, storms and rainfall amounts and intensity.
  • The Climate Change Unit has funded and coordinated several community climate change assessments through the Atlantic Climate Adaptation Solutions program, which include aspects of coastal and inland flood mapping and risk in six pilot areas (13 municipalities) in Nova Scotia.
  • NSE regulates 114 activities in the province by developing, implementing and monitoring standards and conditions of approval. Many of these have some relevance to flood management.