Questions you should ask yourself at the start of flooding season


There has always been some seasonal flooding in communities along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, typically resulting in the temporary closure of a few roads and the flooding of a few basements. At its worst, in 2017 and 2019, some neighbourhoods along the Ottawa River had to be evacuated, and property damage was significant and widespread.

If you live near a river, or in an area with a high water table, flooding is something you need to be prepared for. This checklist will help you get started.

Staff gauge surrounded by snow, water and trees

Is my home at risk to flooding?

If you lived there in 2017 or 2019, you probably already know the answer. But, if you’re new to the community, talk to your neighbours about their experiences. Check with the City to find out if your home is within a flood plain or consult the conservation authorities listed below.

Some properties with high ground water tables are subject to flooding in the spring when rain and snow melt can raise the ground water levels, resulting in ponding on the surface of the ground and water seeping through the walls and floor of your basement.

How will I know waters are rising?

The City of Ottawa works with conservation authorities and government agencies to monitor the Ottawa River and its tributaries. You can follow along with them directly, or collectively on the City’s spring flooding information page:

Will my home insurance coverage protect me against flood damage?

You need to check your insurance coverage to answer this question. Many people assume they have adequate coverage and then find out, the hard way, that they do not. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has further tips for you.

What do I need to know about sandbags?

You can find the material you need to fill sandbags, and sometimes completed sandbags, when they are available, at City facilities. This video, How to build a sandbag wall, will help you get started.

A gloved hand on a pile of sandbags

Can I do this on my own?

Building a sandbag wall is hard work. Unless you hire someone to do it for you, you’re going to need help.

Once again, discuss this with your neighbours. If you need a wall, chances are they may need a wall and you may be able to coordinate building one together.

If people from outside your household, even if they are family members, are helping with your flood protection, you are responsible for protecting the health of your team and your community. Here is what you need to do:

  • Remind members of your team to complete a COVID-19 self-assessment before attending and to stay home and self-isolate if they are not feeling well on their scheduled shift.
  • Have a sign-in sheet for your team to register their contact information.
  • Arrange small groups of people who can work in shifts to complete the tasks
  • Inform your team that they need to wear masks when working at a City facility, or whenever they work within 2 metres (six feet) of someone who is not from their household.
  • Hold meetings outdoors to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Avoid indoor gatherings.
  • Have a plan for your team to access washrooms and drinking water. Disinfect high-touch surfaces between uses.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer for people unable to wash their hands between tasks. Do not touch your face or mask with unwashed hands.
  • Encourage your team to bring their own drinking water in a reusable container and snacks. They should not share drinks or food with others.
  • Encourage the wearing of sunscreen, protective clothing and sunglasses and hats to protect your team from UV sunlight.
  • Review safe lifting practices to reduce the chance of injuries.
  • One way to reduce the number of people required to move sandbags is to use equipment such as wheelbarrows to move materials. Having equipment available in advance and cleared paths of travel will make your work easier.

Do I need a sump pump?

Even if you already own a sump pump, you need to test it every year and make sure it is in good working order.

Like any home improvement item, you want to shop around and get reliable equipment that you are able to use and is a good fit for your home. The City’s website offers a wealth of information about sewer backups and basement flooding. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need a backup pump?
  • How can I pump water during a power outage?
  • How do I store this when it’s not in use?

Do I need to make significant changes to protect my property?

Every property will have special considerations and good planning starts before the water starts to rise. If you decide to go to the effort and expense of making significant changes to your property, remember to do it right. Consult with:

Visit these resources for more tips on how you can prepare for a potential flood: