May 16th: The Ottawa River watershed came together in this time of need. Thanks to everyone who helped their neighbours and communities, and continue to do everything they can to help those who are still affected. A lot of work remains to be done as the waters start to recede. This includes disposing of sandbags and cleaning up our shorelines. We have updated our resources below to include additional information.
April 29th: Thanks to everyone who is helping out their neighbours and communities. With water levels set to peak later this week, at levels higher than the 2017 floods, we hope that the links below will provide you with the information you need to get through this tough time.
If you have questions about the flooding not covered by the resources below, do not hesitate to contact Ottawa Riverkeeper on our Social Media platforms or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you spot pollution or see something that doesn’t look right on the river, you can report it to our Pollution Hotline at 1-888-953-3737 or online.
Flooding resources for major cities:
The following pages are a great place to start looking for information. They cover not only information for citizens of those cities, including where to volunteer, but also general tips for flood preparedness, mitigation and emergencies. As waters recede, they will also be updated with new post-flood information.
What to do with used sandbags: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/what-happens-used-sandbags-1.5129134?__vfz=medium%3Dsharebar
What to do if your house is at risk:
The most important thing is to stay safe. If your house is at risk, ask for help on social media, people will show up. If water is starting to flood your house, turn off all electricity to avoid electrocution, and have an electrician certify that the power can be turned on again when water has gone away. Do not drink water from groundwater wells or surface water if you are anywhere near flooded areas. If your septic tank is flooded, do not flush your toilet, until water has gone back to normal levels.
Here are some groups on Facebook where you can connect to people who need help directly:
In times of crisis, assistance from friends and family, but also from neighbours and strangers, is essential to help the people affected cope and bounce back. You can play a role in this.
Please do not visit the flooded streets. You can best help by filling sandbags to protect houses or by helping clean up streets and shorelines from debris when the water has receded.
The city of Ottawa has a great page with tips on how to prepare to volunteer: https://ottawa.ca/en/news/what-expect-if-youre-volunteering-flood-preparations
A Message from our Volunteer Coordinator (April 29th):
I hope that you are staying safe and well during the flooding crisis that has hit us. As you probably know, the flood levels still have not reached their peak and the City of Ottawa is still calling for volunteers. We want to extend our appreciation for our volunteers who have spent and continue to spend long hours helping protect people’s homes. It is so great to see so many people from all over the watershed come together to help each other. Here is one of our volunteers in action, helping at Britannia on the weekend.
Katie Shafley, Volunteer Coordinator
Please give time, clothing or furniture to your local community center or to the Red Cross: call 1-800-418-1111 or donate online.
Resources for other municipalities/regions:
South Nation Conservation Authority: https://www.nation.on.ca/water/watershed-conditions/flood-forecasting-warning/current-watershed-conditions
For information on water levels and forecasts:
May 16th: The ban on watercraft in flooded areas has been extended. The area now stretches from Mattawa to Montreal, and self-propelled craft such as canoes, kayaks, and surfboards are also banned.
April 29th: Non-emergency boats no longer allowed on sections of the Ottawa River, with heavy fines for violators (additionally, drone piloting is also restricted in flooded areas).
April 29th:Chaudière bridge closed due to water levels.
Water levels around dams:
This week, the Ottawa River is experiencing record high water levels. We are hearing about many of the communities that are being most severely impacted and, occasionally, from areas where water levels are below normal. People have questioned why water levels above some of the dams are low, while there is flooding downstream. How is this possible? Why are the dams opening up more of their gates and spillways when so many areas below these dams are flooded? Can`t they do more to control the water levels?
There are many dams throughout the Ottawa River watershed but only a small number have reservoirs large enough to hold back significant volumes of water. Most of these are located upstream of Lake Temiskaming. These dams in the upper part of the watershed lower the water levels in their reservoirs in late March and early April to make room for the spring rains and snowmelt and hold back the water from the upper part of the watershed as much as possible. The rest of the dams in the watershed have minimal capacity and are unable to significantly change the flow of water moving through the watershed.
The reservoirs have begun to fill up but, at the start of the spring melt, the majority of the water impacting the water levels comes from the central and lower part of the watershed. To accommodate this increased volume at this time of year, some of the dams do lower the levels to reduce the flooding which can occur many kilometers upstream of the dam. Since the dams in the lower and central part of the Ottawa River have no reservoir capacity, their gates are adjusted to allow the volume of water to pass through at the same rate it is arriving. This returns the river, in some ways, to a pre-development /pre-dam state.
When additional gates are opened, it is because more volume is arriving from upstream. Areas with low water are reaches in the river where water can move through quickly based on the geomorphology of the river channel. Where flooding is occurring, it is because there is some type of natural impediment (such as a narrowing of the stream channel) which does not allow the same volume of water to pass through that part of the river as quickly as it is arriving. As a result the water backs up and floods the area upstream. There is an explanation for this phenomena on the ORRPB site which also includes a list of locations where this occurs, including at the Carillon Dam.