Global warming! It’s certainly taking a toll on Toronto, with record-breaking January highs again this week. At 14 C, Wednesday was the warmest January day since 1956 when it only reaches 9 C! But what does this mean for Toronto homeowners, and what’s the long-term prognosis for our city if climate change keeps getting exponentially worse? We already have a major basement flooding problem, and with our proximity to Lake Ontario, we could be sitting ducks. While the debate rages on about whether global warming is really a danger to us or not, a new report released this week paints a troubling picture.
A report on the effects of climate change prepared for Toronto’s parks and environment committee predicts that by the year 2040 we can expect average temperatures to jump by 4.4 degrees Celsius. This is likely to cause storms with double the current rainfall, as well as four times the number of heatwaves. Unless the City invests heavily in upgrading its infrastructure during the next 30 years, residents could be in for much more than basement flooding. The City’s crumbling roads, sewers and storm drain already have difficulty handling the load, and an increase like that could push us over the edge, so to speak.
The Toronto City Council recommended the creation of a working group to study the anticipated impact on the infrastructure of an “increasingly wet and volatile” climate. The group has until the third quarter of 2013 to report back and to create a Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit with recommendations on how to prepare for the deluge. Residents can expect to see an increased focus on programs that promote basement waterproofing in private homes, upgraded sewer installations and improvements to drainage.
None of this is particularly new or alarmist, either. It’s happened before. Back in 2005, Toronto was hit by an hour-long rainstorm that caused damage to City property amounting to $47 million. It also resulted in insurance payouts of more than $600 million to clients for damages to private property caused by basement flooding and broken sewers. Finch Avenue at Black Creek was washed out completely and had to be reconstructed and a trunk sewer in the Highland Creek valley was severely damaged.
Counting the Cost
Apart from the cost of the various research required, the City can expect to fork out billions of dollars on infrastructure spending to cope with the impact, according to a Jan 29 report in the Toronto Star. In the presentation of the report to the council, it was noted that key points of concern included:
- Public transit
- Water supply
- Sewage treatment
- Stormwater management
- Vulnerable citizens
Chances are good that the City will also introduce a program to fast-track private spending by homeowners to help share the load. These could include expanded funding and rebate options for work such as downspout disconnection, backwater valve installation, foundation repairs, and basement waterproofing.
So if you think Wednesday’s rain was a bit much, you ain’t seen Nuthin’ yet! If you intend to own and live in your home for a number of years into the future, start thinking now about taking the necessary steps to protect yourself from basement flooding and other climate change-related problems. Contact your local plumber for an inspection to find out what measures you should budget for.