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Flooding is one of the most costly and destructive natural disasters in Canada. Every year, governments typically spend millions of dollars cleaning up after floods and providing disaster assistance to municipalities, businesses and people who suffered losses. Flooding is also a significant risk to public safety.

Effective flood mitigation can reduce the damage caused by floods. Flood mitigation is the process of planning and acting to reduce and avoid the effects of flooding and minimize the damages it causes. In Alberta, the Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development is responsible for flood mitigation.

The Government of Alberta recently developed two documents on flood mitigation:

  • Resilience and Mitigation Framework for Alberta Floods (December 2013)—to plan, coordinate, assess and implement flood mitigation in Alberta’s watersheds
  • Respecting Our Rivers: Alberta’s Approach to Flood Mitigation (April 2014)—to outline the government’s mitigation actions to provide resilience against future floods and to bring together projects at the regional and local levels

The Government of Alberta has approved $1.4 billion in funding for structural and non-structural projects to reduce the risk of floods in Alberta.

Context of our audit

When we started the audit, the Government of Alberta was already providing recovery support to communities affected by June 2013 flooding in southern Alberta. Since then, the government has developed a plan for dealing with future floods. Its flood mitigation initiatives are now at various stages of completion. Our audit focused on the department’s flood mitigation planning, which should include systems to identify where flood risk exists, who is at risk and what is at risk. We did our audit at this time so that we could provide the department with timely recommendations to improve its flood mitigation systems.

Objective and Scope

We assessed whether the department has adequate systems to develop and implement a flood mitigation plan. We examined the department’s plan as well as its flood risk identification and assessment systems, which are foundational pieces to any flood mitigation plan.


The department has taken significant actions since the June 2013 floods to develop and implement a flood mitigation plan. However, the department needs to further improve its systems to identify where the risk is, who is at risk and what is at risk. These system improvements will allow the department to better assess, plan for and mitigate flood risks.