Water pooling and flood control

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Flood control

If the temperature rises above zero degrees Celsius in a short period of time, flooding can occur. The City maintains drainage systems to reduce potential flooding conditions. City crews remove snow and ice from catch basins on roads and sidewalks to ensure melting snow drains when required. It is normal for water to pool around a catch basin in wet weather. Roads are designed to drain based on the sewer capacity. Roadside ditches are cleared at the outlet end of the ditch system to provide drainage for the spring melt. 

Catch basin locator map

The City of Ottawa has over 100,000 catch basins to provide drainage to our roadways and greenspaces. As a critical component of the city storm collection system, keeping catch basins clear of debris (leaves, ice, snow, etc.) is important. Find the location of your nearest catch basin using the interactive map and help keep our system operating effectively. 


The catch basins depicted in this interactive map are derived from existing and collected engineering drawings for the City of Ottawa's Geographic Information System and are protected by copyright. The locations of this infrastructure information are approximate, and should not be used for construction purposes.

Spring road conditions

During this time, the City improves road conditions and reduces potential flooding by:

  • Using hot and cold mix asphalt to patch potholes during the winter and in early spring.
  • Clearing snow from the ends of culverts and using steam to thaw frozen catch basins to allow maximum water flow and reduce potential flooding.
  • Conducting a street sweeping blitz throughout Ottawa and concentrated street sweeping in neighbourhoods where there is continuous on-street parking.
  • Grading gravel roads and shoulders to re-establish an even road surface.
  • After the spring thaw, seasonal load restrictions are put into effect on some city roads. Seasonal load restrictions are authorized and supported by Infrastructure Services department.

For more information, please call 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401)

Flood Awareness and Prevention Tips

As snow melts in the spring and during times of significant rainfall, large bodies of water such as rivers may have stronger than usual currents. The City reminds residents to stay away from all bodies of water. Parents should ensure their children and pets stay a safe distance from any water's edge. Do not attempt to rescue people or animals should they fall into a river. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

Will There Be Flooding in Your Area?

The potential for flooding does exist during the spring. Large amounts of rain may also cause flooding at any time. Flooding in your area will depend on your proximity to waterways and floodplains. The City is working with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, the South Nation Conservation Authority, the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources - who are responsible for monitoring water levels in our region. Check their Web sites for updates and advisories on potential river flooding.

For more information please visit Spring Flooding 2022.

Basement Flooding and Sewers

Help prevent basement flooding and reduce the negative effects of flood damage by making a few simple changes around your home. Plan ahead, educate yourself and take some early precautions to prevent water from getting into your home. Learn about sewer backups and basement flooding, from general questions to what to do and steps to follow in the case of a basement flood or your sewer backs up.

Emergency Preparedness Tips

The best protection in any emergency is knowing what to do.  Are you ready? 

If a flood is forecast or imminent in your neighbourhood.

City information: call 3-1-1
For Life Threatening Emergencies: call 9-1-1

Additional Safety Issues

Ravines and Escarpments

If you live near ravines or escarpments, or if you are out in these types of areas, please be vigilant about any signs of instability and report any observed conditions to 3-1-1.

Wading Pools in City Parks

Keep children away from wading pools during spring thaw. Heavy rain falls, higher water levels and debris from spring thaw may cause drainage issues in wading pools. This may result in water back-ups and the accumulation of surface water which could pose a risk of drowning.

Road closures

As snow melts, your home can be impacted by the spring runoff. Improper catch basin and roadway drainage as well as excess water in backyards can lead to localized flooding and sewer back ups. Road and pathway closures due to flooding will be updated on the website daily.

Roadway Drainage

Assist with roadway drainage by ensuring that catch basins and drains (grates close to the curb) near your home are open and free of snow and ice. It’s normal for water to pool around a catch basin in wet weather. Roads are designed to drain based on the sewer capacity. Call 3-1-1 if you notice water building up on roads and the City will dispatch crews to investigate. Do not open sewer manhole covers (located near the middle of the street) to drain roadways as this will likely cause sewer back ups.

Rivers and Other Bodies of Water

If you live by a river or body of water with rising water levels, take appropriate safety measures. This includes clearing snow away from your foundation, sandbagging areas vulnerable to floods, and ensuring your sump pump is working properly. If you notice water levels rising around your home, please call 3-1-1.

Wells and Septic Systems

Water wells and septic systems should be graded to avoid ponding of water. In the event of flooding, the safety and operation of water wells and septic systems can be compromised. Learn about water wells and the importance of Flooding and Your Health and what to do if your well water becomes contaminated. Discover how to prevent contamination.

How can you help?

The City is currently not seeking volunteers but is advising residents who want to help to make sure friends and family - particularly children, seniors and people with disabilities - are also prepared for any potential flooding.

Rideau River Flood Control

In February and March, the City of Ottawa, in partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority undertakes ice breaking and clearing operations along the Rideau River during the freshet (when water flow is at its peak) to allow water to flow unrestricted and to alleviate possible spring flooding in flood-prone areas.

Rideau River flood control operations involve a number of steps:

Ice control

An ice control boom is installed in the late fall at Strathcona Rapids to slow the surface flow, promote an ice cover, and limit the volume of ice (slush), anchored ice and ice dams in the river. The ice control boom increases the efficiency of ice breaking and clearing operations in February and March.

Ice cutting on the Rideau River

Cutting keys

Starting above Rideau Falls, saws are used to cut keys to remove large pieces of ice along portions of the river.

Ice breaking operations

Charges (explosives) and amphibious excavating equipment are used in various spots along the river to break ice apart to create open water. Ice breaking operations continue daily until the river's flow is stabilized.

Rideau River ice breaking crews

Flood control partner - Rideau Valley Conservation Authority

The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) partners with the City of Ottawa on Rideau River flood control. The RVCA is an inter-municipal environmental agency charged with river and river-related environmental protection responsibilities for the entire Rideau Valley watershed.

RVCA assists the City's flood control operations by securing provincial funding, assisting in the evaluation of need for the ice removal program, assessing the environmental impact and implementing innovative flood control technology including the use of an amphibious excavation machine, and the ice control boom.

To learn more about Rideau River Flood Control operations you can watch the following video:

Every year since the late 1800s, the City of Ottawa, in partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, undertakes ice breaking and clearing operations along the Rideau River.

This allows water to flow unrestricted and alleviates possible spring flooding in flood-prone areas.

Starting above Rideau Falls, saws are used to cut keys to remove large pieces of ice along portions of the river.

In normal operations, explosive charges are then set on either side of the keys which blasts full sheets of ice down through the dam. But with this year’s warmer winter weather, blasting was cancelled.

Amphibious excavating equipment is then used in various spots along the river to break ice apart to create open water.

Ice breaking operations continue daily until the river's flow is stabilized.



Flooding and Your Health: What you need to know

Preparing for a potential flood, protecting yourself during a flood and restoring your home after a flood can create a tremendous amount of anxiety for home owners. The following links provide great information on protecting yourself and family from illnesses associated with contaminated flood waters.

Before Flooding

During Flooding

After Flooding

Food safety

Flooding can pose food safety concerns as waters can carry contaminates such as raw sewage, chemicals and disease-causing organisms which may contaminate or cross contaminate food products, surfaces and equipment. Here are some quick tips to help you stay safe:

  • Ensure that anyone involved in all flood related clean-up activities wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Discard:
    • All foods that have been in direct contact with flood waters or sewage
      • All meats, fresh fruits and vegetables
      • All boxed foods
      • All products in jars, including home preserves and all bottle drinks
    • Discard any items (example: single service items) that cannot be properly cleaned and sanitized that have contacted flood waters/sewage
    • Porous papers, plastics or packaging (i.e. boxes or bags of rice, flour, muffin/cookies mixes)
    • Containers with screw tops, corks or caps that are wet (i.e. dressings, milk, mayonnaise, beverages)
    • Rusted, pitted, dented, swollen or leaking cans
  • Throw out food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours
  • Clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces, equipment, containers and utensils
  • Launder or discard mops and any cleaning aids that contacted the flood or sewer waters
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water after participating in any flood clean-up activities

How to make a sanitizer

Mix 1 tsp (5ml) non-scented bleach with 3 cups (750ml) of water

Don’t keep

  • contaminated drywall, insulation and panelling
  • equipment, furniture and linens that cannot be properly cleaned and sanitized that have been contaminated with flood waters/sewage (i.e. toaster)
  • soft or porous materials that are not able to be cleaned

Water Safety

Flooding may also contaminate private wells with harmful microorganism and other contaminants. Avoid drinking untreated well water until you have had your water tested and that sample results indicate the water is safe for human consumption.

Learn more about how to sample your well water for bacteria, interpreting testing results and what to do if your well water becomes contaminated. Discover tips on how to prevent contamination of your well water.

Cleaning your home after a flood

As you begin to clean up after a flood, you may initially feel overwhelmed when determining where to begin. Learn more on what to do After a Flood and Flooding and Your Health.

For more information contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 to speak with a Public Health Inspector.


The City of Ottawa is providing sand and sandbags to residents who require them at the following locations:

  • 29 Hurdman Road

Before you begin

Are you feeling unwell in any way? Please return home and isolate yourself and visit the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 assessment screening tool and follow the directions.

Please review the Ottawa Public Health "Prevention of respiratory illnesses" page.

The City of Ottawa provides sand and sandbags to residents who live in areas prone to Spring flooding at various locations across the City.


One way to keep flood water from affecting part of your property is to build a sandbag wall.

For more information on flood mitigation, visit ottawa.ca/springflooding


Descriptive Video:

Text: How to Make a Sandbag Wall

Visual: Completed Sandbag Wall

One way to keep flood water from affecting part of your property is to build a sandbag wall.

Text: The Bag

First, let's take a look at the bag.

Visual: Close up of an empty bag

Empty sandbags can be purchased at most building supply stores in Ottawa.

Visual: Graphic showing 2/3rds of the way filled.

Only fill each bag two-thirds of the way as Overfilled bags are not as effective and become too heavy to remove later once saturated with water.

Visual: Placing a ladder onto two wooden horses and putting pylon into place.

A propped ladder and a pylon makes for a stable workspace. Carefully cut the pylon to create a syphon for the sand.

Visual: The top of a pylon being cut.

Visual: Filling the sandbags.

Visual: Close up a filled bag being tied up and thrown onto a pile

To build our wall we created a base layer four bags wide, overlapping the sides slightly.

Visual: Base layer of four bags wide already in place.

When you lay your sandbags, make sure to overlap the seams.

Visual: Graphic of sand bags positioning

Position the bottom seam of the bag towards the water, and the tied end toward the shore.

Visual: Shore labeled at the top of the screen

Visual: Water labeled at the bottom of the screen

Visual: Close up of stacking bags

Then, stack sandbags in a pyramid style on all sides. With this pyramid design, if you want a higher wall, you will need to make it wider at the base to begin with.

A ten-metre wall, two feet in height, would require approximately 100 bags.

Visual: Completed sandbag wall

This is one way to build a sandbag wall.

Text: For more information visit Ottawa.ca

Visual: Ottawa logo