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Flood Impacts

Floods are natural events that have always shaped the land and carried nutrients, supporting natural ecosystems. For communities built near water, however, the interaction of floodwaters with things people value creates negative impacts. Simply put, when humans use flood hazard areas for settlement, agriculture, infrastructure and other assets and activities, flooding can cause adverse impacts.

For a look at past Fraser River floods, explore our Story Maps:

Here is an overview of the types of impacts that occur during and after a flood.

Types of Flood Impacts

Human Deaths Floods can result in human deaths, although fortunately such deaths have been rare in Canada. People can drown during floods, usually from entering floodwaters and being swept away. People can also die after flood events as a result of long-term health impacts and stress associated with the initial flood experience.
 Other Impacts on People
People can be affected by a flood through:

  • Injuries or other negative health impacts
  • Evacuation or displacement
  • Loss of or damage to a home, contents or other property
  • Loss of employment or livelihood
  • Disruptions to everyday life through loss of critical infrastructure, access to basic services and economic upheaval.
Impacts on Animals
Floods can also injure and kill animals:

  • Animals kept as livestock in floodplain areas
  • Wild animals living in floodplain areas
  • Pets in floodplain areas if not evacuated with residents
Impacts on Agricultural Lands and Environmental Health
Floods can have significant impact on the land base, including agricultural land,  and environmental health. Impacts include:

  • Damage to agricultural land and loss of crop production
  • Contaminant dispersion from industrial and agricultural hazardous materials and waste, and from septic systems and wastewater treatment plants
  • Damage to habitat and natural areas

Floodwaters on maps and graphics are often portrayed as clear blue. In reality, floodwaters are murky in colour and can have a strong, unpleasant smell. Floodwaters will include fuels released from vehicles or gas stations; human and animal excrement washed from agricultural operations or from compromised septic and sewer systems; fertilizers and possibly dead animals from agricultural operations; hazardous materials stored in flood hazard areas; as well as small and large debris — from household items through to vehicles and even buildings.

Economic Losses Floods can also have direct and indirect economic impacts on individuals, businesses, industries and governments through:

  • Direct damage and reconstruction costs related to public and private buildings, public infrastructure and other assets
  • Agriculture-related economic losses from death of livestock and crop production losses
  • Other industrial economic losses from damage to buildings, equipment and other materials
  • Indirect economic losses, such as emergency response costs and economic losses due to disruption of business operations and lost employment income.
Critical Infrastructure and Service Disruptions Critical infrastructure is necessary for the normal function of society. Such infrastructure includes health facilities, emergency response facilities, governmental facilities, educational facilities, transportation infrastructure, roads and electrical systems. If these are destroyed, damaged or disrupted by a flood event, widespread impacts will be felt across society.
Damage to or Loss of Cultural Assets There are many irreplaceable assets and values related to society, including damages to cultural institutions and their collections (e.g., museums, heritage sites, religious sites) and to archeological (Indigenous and settler) sites, as well as damage to or loss of land for traditional uses.