2016 Flooding Event Debrief Report – 20 Questions Plus

In the days after last year’s devastating flood on September 29, 2016 – in which over 3,000 homes were flooded mostly in Wards 6 & 7 – I submitted to City Council what I call 20 Questions Plus – formal questions asking the City Engineer to explain the cause of the flood, the City’s response and the steps necessary to address the challenge of basement flooding in the future.

I am posting this as it contains some excellent information, and it may help answer some of the questions you have.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any additional questions yourself: irek@citywindsor.ca

To:  Mayor and Members of City Council

 Subject:  2016 Flooding Event Debrief Report and Response to CQ46-2016, CQ47-2016, CQ54-2016 and CQ57-2016

Author: City Engineer     Date to Council:  January 23, 2017


On Thursday September 29, 2016 a severe and extreme rainstorm event occurred in the City of Windsor resulting in rainfall amounts of up to 230mm in the hardest hit areas of the City. This rainfall event exceeded the 1:100 year design storm and in some areas, amounted to 144% of the amount of precipitation normally received during the month of September. The City’s sewers, drains, ponds and outlets functioned as designed but were overwhelmed by the extraordinary volume of rainwater, leading to flooded roads, basements and ponds that spilled onto adjacent properties.  A total of 2853 callers reported incidences of flooding to 311 during the event and in the days following.

Mayor Drew Dilkens declared a state of emergency within the City and on October 3rd Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro announced the activation of the Disaster Assistance for Ontarians Program for Windsor and Tecumseh residents impacted by the flood.  Many City Departments contributed to the response and recovery of the event through activities ranging from receiving calls from impacted residents, assisting with road closures and traffic detours due to flooding and liaising with various local, provincial and national partners who assisted with the recovery efforts.

In response to the four Council Questions posed at the September 29th, October 3rd and November 21st City Council meetings, a number of operational programs and maintenance activities are outlined within this report. Regular maintenance, CCTV, Smoke Testing and Flow Monitoring are some of the practices used to ensure the sound operation of the City’s sewer system. All sewers flowed at capacity during the storm event, all pumping stations responded appropriately and the City’s monitoring efforts did not reveal any blockages in the system that would have contributed to the flooding.

With respect to long-term infrastructure improvement initiatives, work as part of the Sanitary and Storm Sewer Master Plan (SSSMP) project is ongoing, with the RFP expected to be issued in Fall 2017 and the development of the plan expected to begin in early 2018. Funding for the project that was previously allocated from 2018-2020 has been recommended to be moved up to 2018, to assist with expediting the completion. Further study and analysis performed as part of the Master Plan project will assist in identifying options, with the results being used to inform the prioritization of future infrastructure improvements.

In order to achieve a successful outcome, efforts to mitigate basement flooding will require shared responsibility and action by homeowners and the City.  At the homeowner level, these actions include investment in mitigation measures under the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program (BFPSP) and Downspout Disconnection Program. With respect to the City’s role, the continued support of these programs and efforts to educate homeowners on the various measures are a critical part of the short-term action plan as recommended by Administration. Temporary staffing measures and process improvements are also being undertaken to address the increased demand for the BFPSP. A post-flooding survey is also being proposed by Administration in order to learn more about the homes that experienced flooding and the flood mitigation measures employed compared to neighbouring, or even adjacent, homes that did not flood.

Efforts by Cities and their residents to implement flood mitigation efforts are expected to become increasingly important in the coming years, as the impacts of climate change begin to escalate. The City of Windsor remains committed to undertaking further research, analysis, planning, and education of residents in order to ensure preparedness for future events.

It is noted, however, that while the impacts of extreme weather events such as the one experienced on September 29 maybe able to be mitigated in the future through some of the recommendations in this report, they are unlikely to be fully preventable even with very significant additional investments. These impacts of the ongoing climate changes, will be an increasing challenge for all municipalities.


On Thursday September 29, 2016 an extreme rainstorm event occurred in the City of Windsor, resulting in widespread flooding of roads, homes and businesses across the east end of the City and neighbouring municipalities. Rainfall quantities for the 24 hour period over September 29th in the hardest hit areas of the City ranged from 115mm to 230mm. Approximately 3,968 calls were received by the City’s 311 Department  between Thursday, September 29 and Monday, October 3. A total of 2853 callers reported incidences of flooding during the event and the days following.

On Thursday September 29th Mayor Dilkens declared a state of Local Emergency within the City in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c E.9 s.4.(1) due to the extent of the impending situation that constituted a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property. A provincial assessment team was sent to Windsor on Friday September 30th to assess the damage and assist with determining whether the flooding event met the criteria for the provincial disaster relief program. On October 3rd Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro visited Windsor and announced the activation of the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians Program for Windsor and Tecumseh residents, impacted by the flood.

At the October 3rd City Council meeting Mayor Dilkens provided an update to the community on the City’s response to the flooding event.

As a result of flooding that occurred during the significant rainfall event in Windsor on September 29, 2016, the following council questions were asked of administration:

At the October 3, 2016 City Council meeting:


Requests administration prepare a report for the community on the recent rain even outlining data from the pumping stations and overlaying on past areas to see if there are any hotspots.


That Administration report back on a timeline for completion of the Stormwater and Sanitary Master Plan including resources necessary for prioritized and expedited time frame. 

Also – that Administration report back – as soon as possible – on the process and resources necessary to move forward with a Class Environmental Assessment for Sanitary Sewage Collection System Improvements – similar to the Town of Tecumseh – that also includes an independent third party analysis of:

(a)       City’s capacity to deal with so-called surcharges in water flow

(b)       Water retention and detention capacity across the ward

(c)        Capacity at Little River Pollution Control Plant

(d)       Analysis of City response to 2011 and 2016 rainfall events
At the November 7 City Council Meeting, CQ54-2016 was raised:


(1)   What is the status of Stormwater and Sanitary Master Plan – timeline for completion?
(b) What resources are necessary to expedite/prioritize the completion of the Plan?

(2)     Livelink #15549 (2012) report calls for a comprehensive Stormwater Management Strategy What is the status of this Strategy?

(3)   After the last major flood in 2011 – the Town of Tecumseh hired an independent engineering consulting firm to prepare a Sanitary Sewage Collection System Improvements Class Environmental Assessment.  It has 167 pages that reviews capacity, performance and provides recommendations. 

      The City of Toronto is also conducting separate Environmental Assessments (EAs) for all 34 neighbourhoods that were identified as flood prone after the City experienced a major flood in 2013.

a. Has the City of Windsor conducted an EA to date?

b. What value could an EA deliver?

b. What resources would be necessary to proceed with a similar EA in East Windsor?
c. What is the process?


(4)   City has 43 pumping stations.  Can you confirm that all 43 pumping stations were working on September 28, 29 & 30?

(5)  The City constructed a $60 million downtown Retention Treatment Basin (RTB) in 2012.
A.     Would a retention basin of that size have helped alleviate flooding in East Windsor? 

(6)    What percentage of our 1700km of sewers have been analyzed using CCTV – for anomalies such as cross-connections?

    (a) Why is CCTV important and what resources are necessary to speed up the process?


(7)    Little River Pollution Control Plant (LRPCP) – treats sanitary from Windsor (east of Pillette) to Town of Tecumseh:

A. Is the flow from Town of Tecumseh impacting our capacity at LRPCP during high rainfall events?

B. Could there be value in collaborating with the Town of Tecumseh on a joint Master Plan and/or join EA for sewer improvements – since our systems are so linked together?

(8) What is the Emergency Bypass Gate and what purpose does it serve?
A.  What time was bypass activated on Thursday/Friday?

B.  Could this process have been improved?

C. Could bypass capacity be improved e.g. Pontiac Pump Station

(9)   Is capacity at LRPCP sufficient currently and with new development?
b.     Why does Lou Romano Water Reclamation Plant process significantly more water than LRPCP – and at what point is an expansion of the latter contemplated?

(10)  In June 2010 – there was flooding in parts of Ward 8 – that was attributed in part to sewer blockage.  Can we rule out blockages as contributing factor in Ward 7 floods?
(b) How many employees do we have conducting sewer maintenance on our 900km of sanitary sewers? How long does it take for one clean cycle?  Is that standard across cities?

(11) Backwater valves have been mandated on all new builds since January 1, 2012:
a.   I talked to residents who had it installed – and yet still got flooded.  Can you explain?
b. Can you provide an update on this program – how it has fared – and what resources/actions are required to increase uptake

 (12)  In 2012 – a report recommended that the City purchase 20 permanent flow monitors and hire a consultant so that the City can collect data on sewer flows and create computerized models that show inefficiency and infiltration.
a.     Where are we on this? What information did these monitors provide during the most recent flood?

(13)  Where are we on updating Intensity Duration Frequency (IDF) curves for the City of Windsor?  What role does this play in City planning?

(14)   About $500 million to separate sewer and sanitary.  Currently spending $10 million per year?  How long would it take to accomplish this?

(15)  A City report states: “Had downspouts been disconnected during the previous (2011) major flood events, then most of the basements flooded would not have.  A 10% reduction in water volume heading to the sanitary sewer would greatly reduce instances of basement flooding”.

a. Provide an update on the downspout disconnection program?
b.     Can we expedite the disconnection program and what resources are necessary?
c.     How much are we spending per year on downspout disconnection?

(16)  The retention pond at Blue Heron Lake & Troupe Crescent both crested and/or overflowed. Cities like Toronto – which have experienced flooding – are investing in building additional retention capacity. 

(a) What is the state of retention capacity in East Windsor and is it sufficient?

(17)  Is elevation a contributing factor in terms of why some streets were flooded and others were not?

(18)  What can Residents do to protect their homes from flooding?

(19)  What can the City do?

(20) What are some of the best practises of Low Impact Development (LID) and is this applicable in Windsor?

At the November 21, 2016 City Council meeting, CQ57-2016 was raised:


Asks that Administration provide an update on the Basement Flood Protection Subsidy Program after the September 28, 2016 flood – including volume of applications, timelines for processing applications and whether the program has adequate resources.

In early November, Administration held a debrief session to review the actions taken and lessons learned. This post-event report is intended to provide City Council with a summary of the City’s response, lessons learned and recommended actions moving forward.


From the initial response to recovery efforts, many City departments were involved in responding to the flooding event. This report will provide a summary of the City’s response to the flooding event, updates on related programs and will also provide responses to four council questions CQ46-2016, CQ47-2016, CQ54-2016 and CQ57-2016.
Overview of the City’s Response to Flooding Event and CQ46-2016

The amount of rainfall received during the September 29, 2016 event exceeded the design parameters. It also exceeded a 1:100 year frequency event. For further explanation, a one-hundred-year storm is an event that statistically has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. As well, this event broke the extreme daily rainfall record of 94.6mm which was recorded by Environment Canada at Windsor Airport on April 20, 2000.  Over a 24 hour period, the City received as high as 144% more of the normal amount of precipitation received for the month of September, a total of 93.9mm, as recorded by Environment Canada over a 30-year period between 1981 and 2010.

Extreme rainfall amounts in the east end of the City contributed to sewer backups, house flooding and flooded roads. Sewers, drains, ponds and outlets functioned as designed but became overwhelmed by the extreme event leading to flooded roads, basements and ponds that filled beyond capacity spilling onto adjacent roads and properties. Calls from Windsor Police and residents regarding flooded roads and basements led to the dispatch of regular daytime staff to the affected neighbourhoods to assist with road closures and traffic detours due to road flooding. Staff patrolled the affected areas to ensure drains were not obstructed and sewers ran at peak capacity throughout the rainfall event.

During the storm, significant increases in flow rates to storm and sanitary pumping stations occurred in the impacted area. All stations responded appropriately and additional pumps activated as required, in response to the increased flows.  Additional staff came in during the initial hours of the rainfall event and continuously throughout the following days of the resulting increased flows to address any operational issues.

311 Service

Residents and businesses were asked to call 311 to report any incidences of flooding. As the scope of the flooding became apparent during the early morning of September 29th, 311 staff scheduled for later shifts were called in early to assist and additional staff were also seconded to assist with answering phones. 14 Agents in total were handling 311 calls. The 211 service was rolled over to Findhelp so agents could focus solely on the 311 service and alleviate the call queue.

An online service request was created so residents could report basement flooding 24/7. This also assisted with alleviating pressure on call volume and was communicated as an alternate channel for residents to access during the emergency event. Other channels (email/text) remained open and were able to be monitored by seconded staff and management as an alternate means for residents to contact 311 services. The 311 service operated for extended hours, until 11 pm on September 29th and was also open on Saturday, October 1st from 8 am-1 pm in response to resident needs.

During the first seven days of this significant weather event, 311 answered over 6400 calls. On three of these days the call volume exceeded 1000 calls/day. Staff were extremely flexible in working extended shifts to assist.

The following data was collected from callers based on the existing questions in the Storm Flooding service request:



Question 1″ or less 1″- 3″ 3″- 6″ over 6″ Unknown Totals
How much water did you get in your basement? 319 693 800 778 263 2853
Floor Drain Sump Pump Don’t Know Other Unknown
How did the floodwater get on your property? 1654 394 329 210 266 2853
Yes No Unknown
Have you had any previous flooding?  If so, when? 805 1561 487 2853

Based on reports of flooding collected by 311, approximately 15% of properties located within Ward 6 and 14 % of properties located within Ward 7 were affected. A map attached in Appendix A illustrates the distribution of the reported occurrences of flooding.

Transit Services

Public transit service within the surrounding area was also impacted during the flooding event. Due to extensive flooding in the Tecumseh Mall area, Transit Windsor had to modify access to the regular bus stops at the mall. Since Lauzon Parkway was closed, an alternative route via the Lauzon Road entrance was used. This detour started in the early morning when the streets were flooded and continued until approximately 3pm when the road re-opened.  Routes that were affected included the Crosstown 2, Transway 1C (both eastbound and westbound), Ottawa 4 (east/west bound), Lauzon 10 (north/southbound).

Transit Windsor received a call at approximately 1pm from Tecumseh Mall management advising that if more rain occurred, service to the regular mall stops may be discontinued until conditions dry out, due to liability reasons.  If this did in fact happen Transit Windsor would have had to revert to on street connections at Lauzon Road and Tecumseh Road.  Due to the detour, all buses that go to the Mall would cross this intersection anyways, so while it would be an inconvenience it would not affect actual on street service.

A supervisor was stationed in the area of Tecumseh Mall for most of the day in case issues arose such as further road closures, issues at the mall etc. Around 3pm the roads re-opened and bus service was restored along the regular route.

Flood Recovery

Waste Collection Services

As part of the flood recovery activities, temporary arrangements were made for additional waste collection services to assist residents with disposing of flood damaged items. Residents were allowed to bring flood damaged items to the Public Drop Off (PDO), free of charge from September 30th, 2016 to October 12th, 2016. Curbside collection of flood material began on Friday October 7th and continued until Saturday October 22nd, 2016. The hard side container requirement of the garbage bylaw was waived for the period of collection (up until Oct 22nd).  All residents were serviced either through the free drop off or curbside collection.

Requests to keep the landfill open later than normal operating hours were granted. This was absolutely essential. However, the Certificate of Approval for the operation of the Regional Landfill does not include operating hours on Sundays or Statutory Holidays; this resulted in some delays to collection services. In total, 1600 Tonnes or 1,600,000 kg of flood damaged materials were collected as part of the drop off and curbside collection service.

Social Services

Social Services was also actively involved in recovery efforts, regularly monitoring the situation and ready to assume their role of assisting with emergency shelter, food, clothing if needed, co-ordinating transportation to emergency shelter/lodging, obtaining emergency supplies such as medication, assistive devices, etc. for both the City of Windsor and County of Essex. Staff worked as a liaison, co-ordinating between community partners, volunteer groups, 311/211, waste management, and more. The City was able to leverage positive working relationships with local, provincial and national organizations to assist impacted residents within the community. Without the generous assistance of these partners and volunteer groups, assistance to the most vulnerable and most in need in our community would have been a challenge.

Fortunately, the September flooding event did not cause any individuals to be displaced. However, many homes were damaged and without proper clean up, individuals and families could be faced with contamination and mould issues causing serious long term health concerns.  In this situation the majority of residents had insurance coverage and/or could find other means to undertake proper clean up. If insurance coverage was minimal or non-existent, the majority of residents were physically capable of doing the clean up themselves or with the assistance to family and/friends. Unfortunately it was the most vulnerable such as seniors, people with disabilities, single parents and residents who did not have supports who were at risk of falling through the cracks. This gap in services is a concern for the future, especially as our population ages. Thankfully, not-for-profit organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse and Mennonite Disaster Service stepped in to assist with flood clean-up for residents who had limited capacity and/or resources to perform the clean-up. Social Services assisted Samaritan’s Purse through co-ordination efforts while they were in the local community.

In addition, Social Services assisted with getting donations co-ordinated through Family Services Windsor Essex. A dedicated Flood Assistance Fund was set up and Green Shield Canada generously committed to match all donations up to a total of $50,000. In total, $19,060 was raised, which includes $9,530 in matching funds from Green Shield Canada. The Flood Assistance Fund will assist those most in need with ongoing clean up, furnace/water heater replacement and select rebuilds. Social Services is also working with Family Services Windsor Essex to assist people with Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) application forms. To date, 35 applicants have received assistance with the ODRAP application process.

Several months after the flooding event, Social Services continues to receive calls from volunteers groups assisting with the recovery efforts and is coordinating efforts with Family Services Windsor Essex. While a majority of the flood clean-up is now complete, the ongoing staff support from Social Services continues well-beyond the initial recovery period, impacting resources within this area.

Contributing Factors for Basement Flooding

Rainfall quantities for the 24 hour period over September 29th range from 115mm to 230mm, while most recordings of the event are in the higher range and indicate 150mm to 230mm. The design standard for a 100 year event over 24 hours is 115mm indicating the September event doubled the rainfall amount for the design standard.

The increased wet weather flow in the sanitary system is a result of inflow and infiltration into the sewers:

o   Inflow is stormwater that enters into sanitary sewer systems at points of direct connection to the systems

o   Infiltration is groundwater that enters sanitary sewer systems through cracks and/or leaks in the sanitary sewer pipes
Basement Flooding – Homeowner Maintenance or Equipment Issues:

Basement flooding can occur from several sources. The following are reasons which often cause or contribute to basement floodingwhich homeowners can address:

  • Poor lot drainage resulting in water flowing toward the home rather than away from it.
  • Overflowing eaves troughs.
  • Leaking/plugged downspouts.
  • A leak in the home’s foundation, basement walls, or basement windows and doors.
  • Failure of the weeping tile system (foundation drains), resulting in water pressure building up around the foundation walls.
  • Cross connections between weeping tiles and sanitary private drain connections.
  • Sump pump failures due to power outages, overuse, or other mechanical malfunctions.
  • Sump pump overwhelmed due to volume of flow from foundation drains, surcharged connections, broken connections and downspout connections.

An illustration of various contributing factors to basement flooding is attached in Appendix B.

During the September 29th flood event some homeowners who had previously installed a Back Water Valve (BWV) still experienced flooding. The explanation as to why this may have happened is complex and requires a structured approach to the answer. Each dwelling has a unique plumbing and drainage system, the mere installation of a BWV on the sanitary plumbing system is not a guarantee against basement flooding. Back water valves are a mechanical device that prevent sewage from reverse flowing into the underground plumbing system of a building at its lowest point, i.e. floor drain, shower drains, toilets etc. Like any mechanical device these valves require period maintenance/cleaning as required by the manufacturer, failing to maintain the valve could reduce the effectiveness of the valve preventing a reverse flow, as such the basement would still flood even with a BWV installed.

Below are some of the typical basement flooding scenarios and likely causes, even when equipped with a BWV:

Scenario Likely Causes 
Water back up through the basement floor drain, shower or toilet. Most houses built before 1992 drain their foundation drains (weeping tile) through the underground plumbing to the municipal sanitary sewer. If these drains have not been entirely re-directed to a sump pump pit, some or all the drains will continue to drain through the underground plumbing system to the municipal sanitary/combined sewer. If the municipal sewer system surcharges during a storm event causing the BWV to be in a closed position, the foundation drains have no ability to discharge and subsequently the stormwater/sewage backs up through the lowest point in the basement, usually the floor drain or shower. Some older homes have more than one entry point for the building sewer often referred to as a branch drains. Failing to installing a BWV or similar approved device on all branch drains servicing the building will create a gap in protection and still cause flooding. Some flooding may also occur when the BWV is functioning properly and is in the closed position; however the occupants continue to use the plumbing system unaware the BWV is engaged. This scenario would cause ‘self flooding’ since the internal occupant created sewage cannot discharge through the closed BWV and ends up rising through the floor drain in the basement.
Water back up resulting in over flow from the sump pump pit. Sump pumps/lifts that cannot discharge the volume of water entering the basement pit will overflow onto the basement floor causing a flooding condition.  Often residents will report that their sump pumps could not “keep up” because of all the water entering the sump pit.  A sump pump that cannot discharge incoming flows to the pit fast enough to keep the basement from flooding can be attributed to several reasons, some of them are as follows:

  • Size and quality of the pump is inadequate to handle the volumes and extended periods of pump operation during a storm event
  • Sump discharge lines that are directly connected to a private storm piping system lack an effective overflow piping system to by-pass any surcharge condition that may be occurring on the municipal storm sewer side
  • Damaged, partially collapsed/misaligned storm piping on private property causes a back up
  • Downspouts that are still connected to the private storm system increases water flow to sump pits
  • Downspouts that discharge too close to the foundation walls contribute additional water to foundation drains
  • Properties that lack sufficient positive grading away from foundation walls contribute additional water to foundation drains
  • Excessive inflow from ground water in trenches due to surcharged conditions and/or broken connections.


Water penetration through foundation walls (seepage). Basement foundation walls that lack an acceptable damp proofing system in combination with some of the reasons noted in the above scenarios will allow water to enter the basement. The amount of water ingress will vary with the intensity and duration of the storm event.
Overland water entering basements through building openings. Overland water which cannot drain into the municipal sewers for various reasons can sometimes build during heavy rain events and, when adjacent to buildings, could often find vulnerable points of entry through the building envelope.


Basement Flooding – Infrastructure Issues

The following are reasons which may cause or contribute to basement flooding arising from sewer infrastructure:

  • A blockage in the sanitary sewer lateral between the home and the sanitary sewer main in the street from paper, grease, tree roots or other material.
  • Inflow and infiltration into the collection system through leaking pipes or bad connections which reduces the pipes capacity.
  • A blockage or failure at a pump station
  • A backup of wastewater in the sanitary sewer system through the floor drain or other fixtures in the basement, possibly a combination of sanitary sewer water from the sanitary sewer system and stormwater from the weeping tiles referred to as inflow and infiltration. (i.e. overwhelming of system).

The City’s monitoring efforts during the storm and follow-up after the event did not reveal any blockages in the system that would have contributed to the flooding. All sewers flowed at capacity throughout the event and all pumping stations responded appropriately.

With respect to whether elevation was a contributing factor, street flooding is a function of the hydraulic grade line of the storm system.  As in the case of this event, where the storm exceeded the design storm, surface flooding in low lying areas and streets is to be expected.


Current State of the Sewer System

The City of Windsor is spending record amounts on its sewers and related infrastructure. Nonetheless, the separation of combined sewers is a long term deliberate process which is expected to take more than fifty years to complete under a best case scenario (i.e. assuming that no sewers deteriorate in the future, that costs remain constant, and that funding remains constant). Approximately 5 km of sewer are being replaced per year, out of a possible 1740 km.

Figure 1 below illustrates the total expenditure on sewers over the 16 year period from 2001-2016.  The total investment in sewer infrastructure has increased from $121.7 million in the eight year period from 2001-2008 to $272.5 million over the eight-year period from 2009-2016, despite holding the line on taxes.

It is noted that the Capital Budget for 2017 to 2021 proposes spending $36.6, $27.2, $27.2, $20 and $23 million, respectively, in sewer rehabilitation, storm relief, pollution control, drain and basement subsidy work if the budgets are approved as proposed. These funds also provide for the construction of new sewer systems, where required. The figures noted above represent a proposed increase over the Council approved 5-year Capital Plan figures in 2016, which is attributable to the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund grant that has been applied for and is expected to be confirmed in January 2017.

Figure 1

The City’s sewer network consists of approximately 1,740 km of the following four types of sewers:

  1. Storm Sewers carry stormwater runoff only.  Storm sewers eventually drain to the Detroit River, untreated.  There are 789 kilometres of storm sewers within the City of Windsor
  2. Sanitary Sewers are designed to convey human domestic and industrial waste to the City’s wastewater treatment facilities.  The City of Windsor maintains approximately 739 kilometres of sanitary sewers.
  3. Combined Sewers were constructed throughout the City until the 1950s. Combined sewers carry both stormwater and sanitary waste in a single pipe.  Stormwater and sanitary water flow together to the City’s wastewater treatment plants through 212 kilometersof combined sewers.
  4. Over-and-Under Sewers consist of a dedicated sanitary sewer pipe with a larger, separate storm pipe installed directly over it.  There are 19 kilometers (included in storm and sanitary totals) of over-and-under sewers in Windsor which flow to the City’s wastewater treatment plants.

The City’s sewer design standards have varied over the years.  The storm sewer is the minor system and overland flow routing is the major system.  The sewers are designed to convey the minor component.  The current design standard is the 1:5 year frequency storm, based on the City of Windsor rainfall intensity curve.  This curve has been in use since 1975.  In subdivisions, the design standard is the 1:100 year frequency storm for the major system including stormwater management facilities and overland flow routing.  Historically, design standards were based on data from Detroit, and later from Windsor Airport.  Design periods varied from 1:2 year to 1:5 year.  In 1960, the recommended design standard for storm sewers was 1:2 year based on Windsor Airport data.  The municipal drain component of the storm system design is usually based on 1:2 year storm.  Major components, such as the downstream section of Little River and the improved sections of the Grand Marais Drain, have been designed to convey the 1:100 year frequency storm.

The minor system (e.g. storm sewer pipes) provides a level of service to prevent pooling or standing water from collecting during a rainfall event. From a professional engineering perspective, it is not practical or cost-effective to design a pipe system to handle major storm events, therefore, overland flow routing is used. This standard engineering practice is used by most North American municipalities.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras

Approximately 35% of the City’s sewer system has been analyzed using CCTV. New contracts are undertaken each year to increase the CCTV coverage of the City’s sewers. Additional analysis methods (SLRAT and Pole Cam) are being used to provide preliminary information to prioritize sewers that should have CCTV undertaken. Smoke testing contracts continue throughout the city to identify areas of infiltration, illegal connections and cross connections.

CCTV allows the City to understand the physical condition of the sewer network and the private drain connections that tie into it. Identifying infiltration and having a thorough understanding of the sewer condition allows staff to determine if rehabilitation is necessary or if trenchless technology such as sewer relining would be an acceptable alternative. Sewer relining allows the sewer to be rehabilitated without the cost of road repair and restoration. In order to speed up the process staff are investigating the use of new technology which would enable completion of a preliminary assessment of the sewer conditions in much less time and identify sewers that need further investigation via CCTV. The benefit of the new technology is the lower cost and speed at which sewers can be preliminarily assessed.

The City has also applied for a grant opportunity that will enable significant progress with respect to sewer inspections if it is received.


The City has 17 staff within the sewer maintenance area who perform ongoing maintenance including flushing, rodding, electric eel service, manhole structure inspection and cleaning on the sewer network. The goal time for one Sanitary Sewer cycle is 5 years and a Storm Sewer cycle is completed in 3 years, subject to attending to complaints and based on current resource levels.

The new data from Zoom camera will assist with prioritizing maintenance activitiesas it enables staff to direct their efforts to areas that are deemed necessary. Other areas can, with confidence, be bypassed because the Zoom data confirms that they are clean.

Administration does not currently have comparative data on the sewer maintenance practices of other municipalities and would need to conduct a survey to obtain this information.

Flow Monitoring

As part of the Flow Monitoring and Sewer Modeling Project, the City retained a consultant who conducted a flow monitoring program with 28 flow monitors in year 1 and 30 flow monitors in year 2.  Data from these flow monitors, and from 13 of the City’s permanent flow monitors, were used for the calibration and validation of the baseline sewer system model.  The flow monitoring program under the Flow Monitoring and Sewer Modeling project was completed in November of 2014 and therefore has no information on the September 2016 event.

The City also has 13 permanent flow monitors in place. This data is collected by the Pollution Control Division to monitor flows in the trunk sewer system. During the recent flood event the monitors indicated increased flows and sewer surcharging.

IDF Curves

Intensity duration frequency curves provide a graphical representation of the probability that a given average rainfall intensity will occur. IDF Curves are used in the planning, design, operation and maintenance of stormwater management systems, wastewater systems, culverts, bridges, dams, pumping stations, roads and master drainage planning. The City is currently working with the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) to update the IDF curves for the region.

A technical report, A Comparison of Future IDF Curves for Southern Ontario, was jointly led by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and ERCA, and was prepared by researchers from McMaster University and the University of Waterloo. The report was issued in July 2015 and Addendum #1 was issued in February 2016. It demonstrated that there is significant variability among future climate projections and suggested that further study is needed.  ERCA has recommended that decision on future IDF Curves to use be deferred until the Essex Region Stormwater Technical Guide is finalized. An initial report for the Guide was circulated for comment on November 10, 2016 and anticipated completion is expected by Spring 2017.



Status of the Sanitary and Storm Sewer Master Plan

The Sanitary and Storm Sewer Master Plan (SSSMP) will serve as a guiding document to support how municipal servicing for wastewater and stormwater conveyance will be maintained and expanded. It will confirm the location and operations of the sewer systems and enable staff to create maintenance schedules and prioritize the need for upgrades and expansion requirements over the long term. The plan will provide the foundation for individual projects to be implemented by the City and will address need and rationale at a broad level.

The Flow Monitoring component of the project is complete and the report for “Flow Monitoring and Hydraulic Modelling of the Sewer System” (FMHMSS) is finalized.  The model includes sanitary and combined sewers 375mm diameter and greater and storm sewers 600mm diameter and greater.  Five steps are recommended to advance the sewer model to a point where solutions for individual areas which experience flooding can be assessed and alternative solutions to resolve flooding be defined.

  • Fill in known data gaps that impact the accuracy of the modelling results
  • Expand the sewer system model
  • Run the model for design storm simulations
  • Major drainage system analysis
  • Flooding remediation plan

After finalizing the FMHMSS report, next steps include filling in data gaps in the base model.  There are 13 interceptors and 45 overflows without field or as-built information available.  This information must be collected and added. The model will be expanded to include all sewers within areas subject to significant flooding.  Three sewer studies, Campbell/University Area, St. Paul Pumping Station and Pontiac Pumping Station Storm Sewer Studies, have been submitted for the Clean Water Wastewater Fund (CWWF) and will be completed by March 2018. Additional areas will be added to expand the sewer model over time. Data from fog testing of the sewer system which is currently underway is expected to be available in the Summer of 2017 and will be added to the sewer model. Finally, modelling of the major drainage system will be undertaken, utilizing spot elevations of the city gathered as part of the 2015 Aerial Photography.

With respect to timelines, obtaining the information to fill known data gaps and updates to the sewer system model are expected to be completed by the end of Summer 2017. The request for proposal (RFP) for services to develop the master plan would then be issued in late 2017, with the expected completion of the plan by late 2018 / early 2019. As part of the 2017 Capital Budget deliberations, resources that were previously allocated for a three year timeframe (2018-2020) have been moved up to 2018, in order to support an expedited timeline for the SSSMP project.

The master plan will take a system-wide approach to identify specific improvement projects that can be undertaken. A sewer master plan could evaluate the benefit and prioritize storm relief sewers identified in 30 existing storm relief sewer systems that have yet to be funded for construction and evaluate and prioritize sanitary sewer projects for construction. With respect to Environmental Assessments (EA), the type of EA required is determined at the project level, therefore, in the interest of financial prudence, it would be appropriate to wait until the SSSMP is completed and then target specific areas where EA’s may be required. Additionally, a joint master plan initiative between the City of Windsor and Tecumseh is not recommended at this time and would be outside of the scope of the SSSMP project.

Stormwater Management

There are 31 stormwater management facilities in the city, including wet ponds, dry ponds, and underground storage facilities. Review and modelling of stormwater facilities will occur as part of the SSSMP project, as modelled areas are expanded.

Stormwater capacity in East Windsor was designed to accommodate a 100 year return period event. The event which occurred on September 29, 2016 received close to twice that amount of rainfall. Therefore, the stormwater facilities functioned properly but were simply overwhelmed. As the event exceeded the design storm the ponds filled the surplus storage area, and stormwater overflowed onto the streets.

There is one stormwater management facility that has not been assumed by the City and is the responsibility of the developer while it remains under the maintenance period until such time that deficiencies are rectified. The City has been informed by the property owner that all but one deficiency has been resolved and that the remaining issues are expected to be addressed in Spring 2017, after which time the stormwater management facility can be assumed. Seven of the stormwater management facilities within the City were constructed as temporary facilities until such time that improvements are made to downstream municipal infrastructure and remain under private ownership.  Funding for these improvements remains beyond the 5 year capital budget.

Question 5 of CQ54-2016 inquired as to whether additional stormwater facilities, similar to the Retention Treatment Basin (RTB) located on the riverfront in Downtown Windsor, would have helped alleviate flooding in East Windsor. The purpose of the RTB is not to provide flood relief but to capture and treat Combined Sewer Overflows, therefore no improvements would have occurred if it was utilized in the same configuration as the current RTB.

Low Impact Development

Low Impact Development (LID) is a new approach in stormwater management and urban design.  LID is a comprehensive stormwater management strategy that seeks to mitigate the impacts of increased runoff and stormwater pollution by managing runoff as close to its source as possible.  Unlike end-of-pipe controls (i.e. stormwater ponds), LID practices are an integral part of the urban form and requires a different approach to construction.  LID provides a wide range of solutions to manage stormwater (ex. green roofs, rain gardens, bioswales, bioretention, rain water harvesting).  In order to determine the best LID approach, each individual site needs to be assessed based on unique site conditions (ex. Soil type, ground water level, etc.).  Some site conditions may prohibit some LID techniques from being utilized (i.e. bioretention in an area with high ground water levels), however as LID encompasses a number of solutions in most cases LID will be applicable in Windsor.

The Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC) and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP) are leading the province in building and monitoring of various LID projects.   To disseminate best practices for LID, a number of Guidebooks have been developed, including:

  • Low Impact Development Stormwater Management Planning and Design Guide (CVC and TRCA)
  • Low Impact Development Construction Guide (CVC)
  • Low Impact Development Stormwater Inspection and Maintenance Guide (TRCA)
  • Assessment of Life Cycle Costs for Low Impact Development Stormwater Management Practices (TRCA)


More information can be found on the following websites:

  • http://www.sustainabletechnologies.ca/wp/publications/
  • http://www.creditvalleyca.ca/low-impact-development/low-impact-development-support/stormwater-management-lid-guidance-documents/low-impact-development-stormwater-management-planning-and-design-guide/

Over the last two years, the Environmental Master Plan Office has brought CVC and TRCA in to the City of Windsor to provide training to various departments on the implementation and construction of Low Impact Development.  The use of LID is currently being assessed for use at the South Windsor Recreational Complex where the parking lot is undergoing expansion. Administration is working to incorporate pilot projects to build experience in the City of Windsor.

Pumping Stations and Treatment Plant Operations

All pump stations and treatment plant pumping operation were functioning during the rainfall event. Pump station capacities are typically sized for the 5 year return event or greater where dedicated firm capacity pumping is required.  Where pump stations are draining storm detention ponds sized for larger events the pump stations are sized to empty the runoff within a set period (approximately 2 to 4 days) following the larger event. The detention ponds provide quantity and quality control for the stormwater runoff.

The flow from Tecumseh is in compliance with the agreement during wet weather events and is similar to the other drainage areas which flow to the Little River Pollution Control Plant (LRPCP)

The emergency bypass gate is a large diameter gate valve which connects the sanitary sewer system to the storm sewer pump station to provide flow relief from the sanitary system during extreme high flow events and high surcharge levels.  During the September event the emergency bypass was initially activated at 7:30am on September 29, 2016.  There are no process changes that would be recommended to the current operation of the emergency bypass that would provide any improvement.  Capacity of the bypass could potentially be improved through significant infrastructure upgrades to enhance how extreme events are accommodated and potentially reduce sanitary sewer surcharging.

The LRPCP is currently operating at approximately 56% of the annual average daily flow treatment capacity.  There is adequate treatment capacity for current development and future growth. The treatment capacity expansion of the LRPCP would be considered once the annual average daily flow reaches 75% of the plant capacity. The timeline for that would be a function of development growth within the contributing drainage area. Regarding the larger flows at the Lou Romano Water Reclamation Plant (LRWRP) compared to the LRPCP, this can be attributed to the LRWRP having a larger contributing drainage area and population resulting in proportionally larger flows.  Additionally, the LRWRP drainage area includes a large area of combined sewers which results in additional inflows from wet weather events.

Flood Mitigation Program and Response to CQ54-2016

Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program

The Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program (BFPSP) was established by City Council in May 2011. The program offers homeowners a financial subsidy to undertake basement flooding risk mitigation measures (i.e. installation of a sump pump and/or backwater valve and/or disconnect foundation drains from the floor drain). When the program was first rolled out in early July 2011, eligibility was limited to properties located in the City’s three Downspout Disconnection Areas.  However, due to the fact that residents outside these areas also experienced basement flooding on July 18th 2011, City Council approved expanding eligibility for the program to all owners of property located in the City of Windsor who had experienced basement flooding.

Following the recent storm and resulting basement flooding which occurred on September 29, the rate of application intake into the BFPSP has increased substantially. Since the storm, 839 applications have been received.  To put the increase in the rate of application intake over the recent past into perspective, life-to-date as of September 29, 2016, 3000 applications under the program had been received.  Therefore, the applications received subsequent to the storm event of September 29 represent 28% of the applications received in the five-plus years up to that date.

It is estimated that the process currently takes on average 160-170 days for a homeowner to complete (i.e. from the date the City receives the application until the date the applicant is paid their subsidy cheque). The City has control over the timeline required for certain steps in the process to be completed. These steps include; pre-screening of the application to ensure that the property tax account is paid to a current status (Finance Department), scheduling and performing the courtesy inspection to assess the current measures in place, responding to the request for the final inspection on the permit (Building Department) as well as approving and issuing the subsidy payments (Engineering Department). However, the timeline is impacted by the time it takes for the homeowner to obtain the two required contractor quotations, select their preferred contractor to do the work and pay the contractor. As well, any additional delay on the part of the homeowner in submitting their contractor quotations and paid-in-full invoice can extend this period.

With respect to those steps in the process where the timelines are within the City’s control, the duration between when the application is received and the date on which the courtesy inspection is performed contributed the most significantly at approximately 95-105 days of the 160-170 days. Given that the installation of flood mitigation measures generally precedes the restorations of finished basements, reducing this duration will shorten the timeline for those property owners who are in the process of restoring their basement.  As of January 10th, there were 381 courtesy inspections in the queue.

In response to the recent increased rate of application intake and with the objective of shortening the 95-105 days duration, Public Works is currently making arrangements for the recruitment of three temporary Administrative Inspector positions for a six month period. These temporary positions are estimated to cost $116,853.36 and will be funded by the Flooding Abatement project (7169001). As the conduct of a courtesy inspection does not require the expertise of a Building Inspector, transferring these inspections to a trained professional Administrative Inspector in Public Works will have a positive effect on the backlog without creating additional shortfalls in other areas.  Final inspections will still be conducted by the Building Department in accordance with usual permit procedures.

Downspout Disconnection Program

The City provides a downspout disconnection service to residential homeowners, free of charge. Since the program began in early 2012, approximately 3400 homes have had downspouts disconnected.  At this point in the voluntary program, letters have been sent out to about 90% of Windsor homes. As of October 31, approximately $81,000 has been expended on the program during 2016 and total expenses over the life of the program amount to $1,262,451.

Administration is currently pursuing an extension of two temporary Field Services Technicians to support the downspout disconnection program and to ensure that backlogs are minimized.  At this time, no additional resources are being recommended to support the downspout disconnection program.

Downspout Disconnection – Further Options

The City of Windsor has the authority to legislate mandatory downspout disconnection throughout the City with Council approved amendments to the current City ‘Property Standards By-law #147-2011’ or the ‘Sewer Use By-law #11446’.  Enforcement of By-law #147-2011 is through the Chief Building Official’s Office and enforcement of By-law #11446 is through the City Engineer’s Office.  While mandatory downspout disconnection may be an approach to limiting the amount of roof water discharge entering municipal sewers, this approach will likely be met with public dissatisfaction.  Our experience is that home owners prefer to have their downspouts connected to an available storm sewer if their private system is functioning properly to prevent standing water in their yards, water run-off to their neighbour’s property and discharges that may freeze up on hard surfaces.

The City’s current ‘Property Standards By-law’ mandates that water runoff from roof surfaces shall discharge to the municipal storm system if approved by the City Engineer.  Since there is no City-wide mandated downspout disconnection, the Building Department does allow/require a downspout be connected where it could cause a hazard for the public when accessing the principal entrance of the home. This policy is intended to prevent ice on sidewalks leading to the principal entrance. Mandatory disconnection would also increase neighbour to neighbour flooding complaints especially in areas that have small side yards between the houses with few acceptable locations to discharge roof water without draining onto adjoining properties.  The Building Inspections Division investigates approximately 100-150 surface flooding complaints a year resulting from downspout discharge onto adjoining properties.

There are opposing benefits to the issue of mandatory downspout disconnection throughout the City. Public Works would like to slow the load on their sewers during heavy rain events giving time for the system to better manage the volumes. The Building Department would like to have more private connections which are very effective in controlling disputes and private property damage.  Ideally a solution that meets both objectives would be implemented.  Specifically, increased efforts to encourage the public to voluntarily disconnect downspouts through the existing disconnect program would be optimal.  This tact helps create a public-private partnership in relieving stormwater load on infrastructure while allowing for connections as needed to suit site specific situations.

Mandatory disconnects will require a significant investment and effort in inspections to ensure that at a minimum targeted areas that have combined sewers or deficient sewer infrastructure are disconnected appropriately and remain disconnected.  Mandatory programs may also require higher levels of resourcing depending on how pro-active the program is desired to be.  Public expectation regarding the compliance levels and impacts of disconnection must also be managed within the approved program. The recommendation is to use public education and existing programs as tools and to continue to seek voluntary disconnections by engaging the home and building owners as a partner in flooding solutions.

Communications Activities

In December of 2015 Engineering and Communications created a more targeted campaign for the coming year to encourage residents to do what they can to help prevent basement flooding.  The campaign was focused on downspout disconnections as a service all residents should consider—before it could become mandatory.  Disconnections were noted as being as a free and key step in diverting large amounts of rain water to the surface of properties, away from the city sewer system.  With less water in the sewers there is less chance of the system being overwhelmed and backing up into basements.  Less rain water in the system is also better for the City’s treatment plants; as not having to process as much volume saves money and reduces the chances of the plants being overwhelmed.

The campaign was initiated with a goal of having 1000 residents sign up for the city offered service in 2016.  It was felt that 1000 would be a substantial increase over the historical annual number signed up for the service since City Council first began funding it in 2012, and one that would be achievable for the resources required to actually complete 1000 disconnections.

The City’s methods of raising awareness included:

  • An updated Informational Video on the City’s YouTube channel, located alongside a backwater valve video, which is another of the flood mitigation strategies
  • Website information with links to the videos and eight pages of data, drawings and details
  • Social Media Posts (Facebook and Twitter posts, along with YouTube video)
  • Two News Releases on the service
  • News Coverage mentioning the City’s disconnection service:

o   CBC

o   Windsorite.ca

o   The Weather Network

o   The Metro News

o   Ourhometown.ca

o   AM800

o   Blackburn

o   CTV

o   The Windsor Star

  • Advertising:

o   Activity Guide (a full page advertisement was included in the Summer 2016 Activity Guide (May – August) and the Fall 2016 Activity Guide (Sept – Nov); and upcoming Winter/Spring 2017 Activity Guide coming out November 24th.

o   Snapd Newspaper (May, July, August and November 2016)

From January 2016 to November 11, 2016 the City has received 1192 calls for downspout disconnection service.

Use of the Emergency Operations Centre

Emergencies are defined as a situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.  They

affect public safety, meaning the health, welfare and property, as well as the environment and economic health of the City of Windsor.

In order to protect residents, businesses and visitors, the City of Windsor requires a coordinated emergency response by a number of agencies under the direction of the Community Control Group. These are distinct arrangement and procedures which may vary from the normal, day-to-day operations carried out by emergency services.

The City of Windsor Emergency Management Program Committee developed this emergency response plan and it was approved by Municipal Council, the plan includes;

  • Arrangements, services and equipment; and
  • Roles and responsibilities during an emergency.

The aim of this plan is to make provision for the extraordinary arrangements and measures that may have to be taken to protect the health, safety, welfare, environment and economic health of the residents, businesses and visitors of the City of Windsor when faced with an emergency. It enables a centralized controlled and coordinated response to emergencies in or impacting the City of Windsor, and meets the legislated requirements of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. R.S.O.2000.

The implementation of the plan and the use of the Emergency operations centre can aide in the coordination of city resources to ensure that duplication of effort and gaps in considerations are not overlooked. Therefore, moving forward, the activation of the Community Control Group and utilization of the Emergency Operations Centre should be strongly considered when managing emergency events of this nature.

Mass Notification System and Weather Prediction Subscription

The two recent severe weather events – August 25, 2016 tornado and September 28, 2016 flood have reinforced the importance of ensuring the City has access to accurate and timely weather forecast information and that the technology is available to communicate with residents in the event of a mass/area emergency.

The City currently utilizes publicly available forecasting information, through Accuweather and Environment Canada to inform emergency preparedness activities. The local media, the city website and 211/311 are the methods used to communicate updates to residents. A brief outline of the benefits of the Mass Notification System and optional Weather Prediction Subscription are provided below.

The Mass Notification System provides internal notification to the Community Control Group (CCG) for the opening of the Emergency Operations Centre (providing a response interaction between the system initiator and the end user) and also allows pre-planning conference calling for expected severe weather events. The system also provides external notification and emergency information/ updates to residents through all electronic means, including home phones and social media with messaging administrated and controlled by the City of Windsor. This would allow for the ongoing transmission of directions, and or updates to the public, as opposed to the single-use siren system. The common requirement for geo-location evacuation and shelter in place messaging is a common standard feature.

A weather prediction subscription would provide three primary benefits to the city, improved accuracy, operationalizing the forecast and the option for consultation services with a meteorologist. Private forecasting services allow for a customized and locally-focused analysis of the weather conditions and are updated much more frequently than those which are publically available. Updates are usually the result of fresh analysis, not simply repeats of forecasts issued earlier. Secondly, the improved accuracy and timeliness of forecast data is tailored to the business needs of the City, therefore improving the quality of information available for operational decision making. Finally, private forecasting companies provide the opportunity to have personal, one-on-one conversations with a meteorologist who is familiar with our location and forecast needs throughout a weather event. This presents the opportunity for more proactive communication, in order to ensure greater preparedness.

The mass notification system and optional weather prediction subscription are estimated to cost the City $50,000 and $15,000 respectively, per year, with one-time funding of up to $10,000 to address the potential initial outlays required to secure the service.  These options have been included for Council’s consideration within the 2017 Budget Process.

Next Steps and Recommended Actions

Recommended Actions – Response to Flooding Event

A number of key lessons learned and recommended actions with respect to the response to the flooding event are outlined below. These lessons/actions span various departments and therefore may be subject to further discussion and analysis prior to implementation.

Recommended Actions Comments Responsible Department
Review of pump stations under various events through the sewer master plan These reviews will be incorporated into the sewer master plan and any individual drainage area studies. Pollution Control
Assessment of emergency and backup plans for pump stations The scope of these assessments will be reviewed to determine required resources to complete the plans. Pollution Control
Review of weather forecasting service to find out why forecast models did not accurately predict the extreme event. Meet with all departments involved to discuss what happened and opportunities to improve. Proposed weather forecasting service is currently included as an item within the 2017 Capital budget. Operations
Consider activation of the community control group (CCG) in future emergency events to improve coordination and communication between involved stakeholders. The decision to activate the CCG is made upon evaluating factors such as the severity and scope of the emergency. Each emergency has unique factors that require consideration when deciding whether the activation of the CCG is merited. Chief Administrative Officer
Develop emergency protocols for privately owned transit terminal locations (i.e. Tecumseh Mall, Devonshire Mall).    When an emergency event occurs, Transit Windsor evaluates all impacted routes and makes arrangements for detours, where needed.  Tecumseh Mall and Devonshire Mall are key transit transfer terminalsand therefore any emergencies which affect these locations have a major impact on Transit Windsor’s operations.Therefore, next steps will be to develop a contingency plan with both facilities, to ensure minimal disruption occurs to public transit services in the event of an emergency. Transit Windsor
For any future events, consider establishing satellite drop off locations for flood damaged materials, – this would ease some of the traffic congestion experienced at the Public Drop Off. The Transfer Station and Public Drop Off are not designed to handle large volumes of waste in a short period. Satellite locations would reduce the risk of damage to the facility and would expedite cleanup efforts. Environmental Services
Consider delaying curbside collection by an additional week – this will (a) allow for more residents to obtain a response from their insurance companies, and (b) encourage insurance contractors to dispose of the material themselves and not rely on City collection. During large flood events insurance companies are often overwhelmed with claims and it can take several weeks for them to respond. Residents often need to wait for comments from the insurance company before beginning any removal of materials. In the recent event, the requests for waste collection came as late as five weeks after the event. Environmental Services
Determine availability of roll off bins and open top trailers in the area prior to any future event and establish rental rates – this equipment will be required for satellite locations and will allow for haulage direct to landfill. Arrangements made ahead of an event will result in a quicker response and will ensure the availability of equipment. Environmental Services
Explore further customizing auto messaging, including links to pertinent forms relating to flooding requests for service to increase efficiencies and response time. Including links and forms on service request email confirmations will proactively provide residents immediate and direct access to additional information at the time of first contact, enhancing the service experience and mitigating the need for the resident to call back for additional information. 311
Conduct a review of the question tree provided to 311 to be used during flooding events and refine as necessary to ensure additional relevant information is captured at time of intake. During and following the event, 311 provided data to various stakeholders.  This data was used to determine patterns, impact and scope of flooding and provided invaluable information for decision makers. Although key data was collected at time of intake there is opportunity to refine this further. 311 



Consider establishing a relationship with a community organization to serve as the lead-coordinator for donations. Currently, the City establishes partnerships with community organizations as emergencies arise. Through engaging in defined partnership with a single community organization, the City can realize efficiency gains as arrangements would be made proactively, leading to improved coordination and responsiveness. Social Services

Recommended Actions – Operational

Short-Term Actions

In summary, the following actions will be taken by Administration in the short-term:

1. Completion of data for the sewer modelling component of the Sanitary and Storm Sewer Master Plan project.

Issuance of the RFP for the master plan project is scheduled to occur in Fall 2017 with the development of the plan expected to begin in early 2018.

2. Implement temporary staffing arrangements and process improvements to meet increased demand for the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program and Downspout Disconnect Program. 

The Public Works Department is currently making arrangements for the recruitment of three temporary Administrative Inspectors who will be assigned specifically to courtesy inspection duties for the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program.  Having three dedicated inspectors will have three benefits: 1) significantly decrease the wait time homeowners experience in obtaining program approval, 2) reduce the home owner contact points from two departments to a single department and 3) allow Building Inspectors to focus on dealing just with the plumbing contractors on ensuring that work performed is code compliant. Administration will monitor the progress made in addressing the backlog of applications for this program.

As discussed in the report above, Public Works staff are also proceeding with arrangements for the extension of two temporary staff positions for the Downspout Disconnection Program.  Application volumes for this program are currently within normal levels.

3. Increased communications/education of homeowners around the measures to reduce basement flooding

As noted throughout the report, basement flooding is a complex issue which requires shared ownership and actions from both the City and homeowners to address. In the short-term the priority is to provide protection at the homeowner level to prevent sewer surcharge from flooding homes. Public education and promotion of the available measures will be an important step to increase uptake among homeowners.

The BFPSP will continue to be available to homeowners while the current backlog of applications is addressed (see proposed action #2 above). Promotion of the program will occur through regular channels on the City’s website, social media and advertising (e.g. Snapd, Activity Guide and Waste Collection Calendar) however, no additional targeted promotions are being recommended until the backlog of applications has been addressed. Promotion of the Downspout Disconnection Program will continue at normal intervals.

Communications and public education efforts will be focused more generally on the actions that homeowners can take to reduce their risk of flooding through limiting their homes’ impact on sewer and stormwater management infrastructure. Some recommended measures include:

  • Disconnect and maintain downspouts and eaves troughs
  • Installation and regular maintenance of a backwater valve
  • Dispose of fats / oils / grease and other household items properly
  • Ensure proper lot grading
  • Repair leaks in home’s foundation, basement walls and repair basement windows and doors
  • Install and ensure regular maintenance of a back-up sump pump system
  • Install and ensure regular maintenance of a sump pump by-pass
  • Maintain weeping tiles and private drain connections
  • Use rain barrels
  • Install green infrastructure (i.e. Rain gardens)


Homeowners may obtain additional information about flood mitigation measures through visiting the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) website at http://www.iclr.org/. The ICLR is a world-class centre for multi-disciplinary disaster prevention research and communications, which publishes a variety of materials to educate consumers and owners of small businesses on the hazards they face, and to identify simple steps they can take to better protect their families, homes and businesses.   A link to the ICLR handbook for reducing basement flooding is posted on the City’s website, along with several other flood mitigation resources.


If further promotion of the City’s programs is desired immediately, it is easily achievable and can be quickly put in place through the City’s social media accounts, website, videos, Snapd inserts and media coverage. Paid advertising is also an option which would require further resourcing.

4. Initiation of a post-flooding survey

An administrative working group made up of staff from the CAO’s Office, Engineering, Operations and Communications Departments will be exploring options to conduct a survey within neighbourhoods which experienced flooding during the September 29th storm. The survey will assist Administration in determining the prevalence of flood mitigation measures among those residences that experienced flooding and will include a select number of properties that did not experience flooding for comparative analysis. The results of the survey will be used to learn more about the homes that experienced flooding and the flood-mitigation measures employed, in order to better prepare homeowners for future events. Administration will explore opportunities for partnerships to facilitate the survey, utilizing existing resources and budgets to complete the initiative. Further reporting to City Council will occur once more specific parameters have been defined.

Long-term Actions

Climate change has and will continue to impact the occurrence and severity of flooding events. Regardless of the design storm capacity, there will eventually be a new event that will exceed the design storm. Therefore, the actions taken by homeowners to protect their residences from basement flooding, as outlined in the short-term action section above, are critically important to the success of mitigation efforts. In the long-term, continued investment in the BFPSP and Downspout Disconnection programs will be an important measure to support homeowners that invest in flood mitigation measures.

Further analysis and study through the SSSMP project will assist in identifying areas of concern in order to inform the prioritization of future infrastructure improvements.  Asset planning principles including risk methodology will be applied to determine which improvements will provide the greatest value to the overall system.


As this is an informational report to Council, there are no significant or critical risks associated with the recommendations in this report. The report outlines a variety of short-term and long-term mitigation measures which seek to address potential contributing factors to basement flooding and provides an update on initiatives such as the SSSMP project which will identify potential long-term infrastructure improvements to address the priority enterprise risk of Infrastructure. The success of mitigation efforts will be largely dependent on shared ownership and action by homeowners and the City.



There were additional operating costs estimated at in excess of $250,000 incurred as a result of the September flooding event. These expenses were largely due to staff overtime, contracted services attributed to the curbside pickup of flood materials and additional tipping fees. Any budget variance resulting for this event will impact the final 2016 yearend variance.

As mentioned above, the Emergency Notification System and Weather Prediction Subscription Services have been submitted for Council’s consideration as part of the 2017 Operating Budget discussions, via Budget Issue 2017-0086.

Funding for the Sanitary and Storm Sewer Master Plans, totalling $1.65 million, has been approved in prior years’ budgets.  As part of the 2017 Capital Budget, $750,000 that was previously allocated from 2018-2020 has been moved up to 2018, to assist with expediting the completion of this project.

Additional temporary staffing measures undertaken for both the Basement Flooding Subsidy Protection Program and the Downspout Disconnection Program are being funded from the Flooding Abatement Measures project (7169001). As part of the 2017 Capital Budget, a total of $2.5 million in funding is being recommended to be shared amongst the two above noted programs as well as the Closed Circuit Television, Small Sewer Repair and Smoke & Dye Testing programs.

The report has been brought forward as part of 2017 Budget Deliberations in order to ensure Council has the opportunity to provide direction, if it so desires, on any further actions related to the items addressed throughout the report.




The following departments contributed to the information outlined in this report:

Fire & Rescue Services, Public Works Operations, Legal & Risk Management, Engineering, Building, Finance, Pollution Control, Communications & Customer Service, Employment & Social Services and Transit Windsor.


Basement flooding continues to be a problem for homeowners and municipalities across Canada and is only expected to increase with the impacts of climate change. The City of Windsor continues to provide support to homeowners through public education efforts and the available measures as part of the Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program and the Downspout Disconnection Program.

The City of Windsor is committed to undertaking maintenance, long and short term capital initiatives, and research within its fiscal limits and available resources to reduce the likelihood of basement flooding.






Name Title
Brittney Yeats Manager of Corporate Initiatives (A)
Shelby Askin Hager City Solicitor / Corporate Leader – Public Safety & Economic Development
Joe Mancina Chief Financial Officer & City Treasurer / Corporate Leader – Finance & Technology
Mark Winterton City Engineer / Corporate Leader – Environmental Protection & Infrastructure Services
Onorio Colucci Chief Administrative Officer



Name Address Email






Appendix A – Reported Flooding Events – September 29, 2016

Appendix B – Contributing Factors to Basement Flooding