Water levels in Ottawa and Gatineau stable as snow begins to melt

The cities of Ottawa and Gatineau are keeping a close eye on water levels along the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau rivers as the snow begins to melt.

In a news release Saturday morning, the city of Gatineau said winter conditions and the gradual snow melt are keeping the risk of flooding low, but with rain in the forecast through the weekend, the outlook could change.

“With spring just around the corner, and since the 2017 flooding, Gatineau has been on alert, and our crews are well equipped. At this point, even though the snow is melting, the spring freshet has not yet officially started. The latest data indicate no cause for concern with water levels. Municipal services are at the ready, and mechanisms are in place to anticipate and quickly respond, if necessary,” said Gatineau Mayor France Bélisle in a news release.

The city of Gatineau says it has 27,500 filled sandbags and 200,000 empty sandbags in stock and is ready to acquire new ones as needed.

The city of Ottawa said earlier this week it expects water levels and flows to increase with warmer temperatures and rainfall, which could lead to localized flooding in some low-lying areas, particularly near the Rideau River.

The temperature has been above average in Ottawa for the past several days, and the current forecast calls for rain showers through the day Saturday and into Sunday afternoon.

A city memo said sandbag stations are available, if needed. Sand and sandbags are currently available outside the entrance gates at the following works yards:

  • 29 Hurdman Road
  • 2145 Roger Stevens Drive
  • 911 Industrial Avenue
  • 2941 March Road
  • 4127 John Shaw Road (Kinburn)

The city of Ottawa has established a spring freshet taskforce each year since the historic 2017 floods. So far in 2022, city staff say there is no river flooding in the forecast right now, but the taskforce is monitoring water levels as snow melts and rain falls.

Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told CTV Morning Live earlier this week that there is “a little bit” of concern about flooding, but the thaw should hopefully reduce the risk.

“It’s those April showers that kind of worry you,” he said. “You want to kind of thaw the ground out, melt that snow, and be able to take any kind of spring rain so it keeps the moving waters in the rivers and streams at bay. My sense is we’ve seen worse kind of situations three or four years ago. It’s a little concerning, but I don’t think it’s really a worry.”

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a flood watch all the low-lying areas along Stevens Creek and Taylor Drain in the Village of North Gower. A flood outlook was issued for all the low-lying areas around the smaller creeks and streams in the Rideau Valley Watershed, including any connected creeks or ditches.

It is also the time of year for basement flooding. Here are some tips on preventing basement flooding:

  • Seal window wells and cracks in floors, walls and the foundation.
  • Slope ground away from the foundation to allow rainwater to flow away from the home.
  • Direct downspouts from eaves troughs away from the foundation (minimum of 1.2 metres) or to a rain barrel.
  • Disconnect downspouts from the sewer system or foundation drains.
  • Ensure foundation drains direct water to the storm sewer or sump pump. Foundation drains should not be connected to the sanitary sewer.
  • Ensure the sump pump is connected to the storm sewer or discharges to the ground at least 1.2 metres from the foundation.
  • Install protective plumbing devices, such as backwater valves which protect against surcharging in City sewers. The City’s Residential Protective Plumbing Program offer rebates to qualified homeowners.
  • Maintain existing protective plumbing devices according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A protective plumbing device should be maintained periodically or before a forecasted heavy rainfall to ensure it is free of debris, functioning properly and that cleanout caps and access covers are firmly secured.
  • In older homes, especially those with cast iron pipes, additional maintenance may be required, as rust can accumulate at the hinge and prevent proper closure of the backwater valve during a surcharge event. 

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