Heavy rainstorms, snowfall and floods increasingly dominated news headlines in 2013, with extreme weather events directly affecting more than 3.5 million Canadians.
Parts of southern Alberta, including Calgary, were particularly hard hit last June when flooding caused billions of dollars in damage and forced thousands from their homes.
The annual RBC study on water attitudes says 74 per cent of those surveyed agreed climate change will cause extreme weather to occur more frequently. But 23 per cent were concerned about it causing droughts or flooding and only nine per cent had taken precautions to protect themselves and their homes from high water.
"There's no question that 2013 was the 'year of the urban flood' for Canadians," said Bob Sandford, chairman of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade.
"Extreme floods like the ones we saw in Calgary and Toronto weren't a matter of 'if.' They were simply a matter of 'when,' so this level of inactivity on the part of Canadians is concerning," he said.
"You wouldn't go out in a rainstorm without an umbrella. Why wouldn't you try to safeguard your home from the weather, too?"
The poll of 2,074 Canadians was done between January 24 and February 12. The margin of error for a sample of that size would be plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The survey also showed that people perceive floods to be more prevalent in Canada compared with 10 years ago — more than one in five respondents said they live in an area vulnerable to flooding.
And on the Prairies, the survey suggests that some people have short memories.
Calgarians were the least likely to say that extreme weather events will become more common in the future. Yet more reported that they were personally affected by flooding in 2013 than the rest of Canada.
As well, about 65 per cent of Calgarians knew someone that was affected by last year's floods, yet 12 per cent had taken precautionary measures to protect themselves.
RBC also surveyed 134 stakeholders from government, business, NGOs and academia. A large majority of water experts believed the state of storm water management in their region is a serious issue, but one in five in the general public believed that major investments are necessary.
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