April 24, 2008 – (The Montreal Gazette) - Insurance claims relating to water damage are the fastest-growing category of all claims in Canada.

But those payouts involve water damage caused mainly by flash storms in summer that result in sewer backups and basement flooding.

Quebec insurers paid out more than $500 million in water-related claims in 2005-06, said Jack Chadirdjian, director of public affairs for the Quebec branch of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

That amount represents 45 per cent of $1.1 billion in payouts overall, he noted.

The 45-per-cent figure is significant because water-related payouts represented only 21 per cent of the total as recently as 2001-02, he said.

It's because of climate change, Chadirdjian said.

"Not just more rain," he said, "but more rain compressed into shorter periods of time" - like the 100 millimetres (about four inches) of rain that fell in one hour in Montreal in July 1987.

The problem of water damage is particularly acute in the Montreal area, where aging infrastructure can't cope with heavy storms.

Residential home insurance policies do not cover water damage as a routine general risk. People who want to be insured for water damage have to purchase special water-damage riders, also known as endorsements or supplements. They generally cost about $50.

The difference between water damage caused by sewer back-up and water damage caused by floods isn't always clear, Chadirdjian said.

Sometimes, people who live blocks away from a shoreline where there has been flooding will have sewer backup without any evidence of invading surface floodwater.

Inspectors are very astute at being able to identify the factors, he said.