• François P. Brissette,

  • Robert Leconte,

  • Claude Marche,

  • Jean Rousselle

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      Respectively, Professors, Department of Construction Engineering, Ecole de Technologic Supérieure, Université du Québec, 100 Notre-Dame Quest, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 1K3; and Professors, Department des Génies Civil, Géologique et des Mines, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, C.P. 6079, Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3A7 (E-Mail: Brissette: fbrissette@ctn.etsmtl.ca).

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    Paper No. 01164 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.


ABSTRACT: There is a general belief in the public eye that extreme events such as floods are becoming more and more common. This paper explores this hypothesis by examining the historical evolution of annual expected flooding damage on the Chateauguay River Basin, located at the border between the United States and the province of Quebec, Canada. A database of basin land use was constructed for the years 1930 and 1995 to assess anthropogenic changes and their impact on the basin's hydrology. The progressive modification of the likelihood of a flooding event over the same period was then investigated using homogeneity and statistical tests on available hydrometric data. The evolution of the annual expected flooding damage was then evaluated using a coupled hydrologic/hydraulic simulator linked to a damage analysis model. The simulator and model were used to estimate flooding damage over a wide range of flooding return periods, for conditions prevailing in 1963 and 1995. Results of the analysis reveal the absence of any increasing or decreasing trend in the historical occurrence of flooding events. However, a general increase in the annual expected flooding damage was observed for all studied river sections. This increase is linked to an historical increase in damages for a given flooding event, and is the result of unbridled construction and development within the flood zone. To assess for future trends, this study also examined the potential impacts linked to the anticipated global warming. Results indicate that a significant increase in seasonal flooding events and annual expected flooding damage is possible over the next century. In fact, what is now considered a 100-year flooding event for the summer/fall season could become a ten-year event by the end of this century. This shows that potential future impacts linked to climate change should be considered now by engineers, land planners, and decision makers. This is especially critical if a design return period is part of the decision making process.