At-risk properties

The City of Winnipeg (City) works closely with the Province of Manitoba’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre to determine the potential impact of high river levels, and uses extensive data modelling to identify properties that may be at risk of flooding.

If you have received a hand-delivered notice from the City stating your property is at risk, you may be directed to build a sandbag dike to protect your home and others against river flooding.

A representative from the City will keep in close contact with you throughout the entire process.

Property owner responsibility

Who is responsible for building the dike to protect my home?

Under City of Winnipeg Secondary Dike By-law No. 7600/2000, property owners are responsible for the construction, integrity and removal of any sandbag dike on their individual property, to ensure their property and others are sufficiently protected against river flooding.

The Secondary Dike By-law authorizes the City and its designated representatives (i.e. City employees or consulting staff retained by the City) to direct property owners to take action to prepare and build a sandbag dike, when there is a significant risk of flooding to their property or others.

As the property owner, what am I expected to do?

Some of the things you may be directed to do include:

  • Provide the City’s designated representative(s) access to the property to set the dike alignment and height
  • Remove snow, ice and all other obstacles (including trees, buildings, furniture, etc.) from the location of the potential dike on your property
  • Accept the delivery of sandbags or other items from the City for building a temporary dike
  • Build a temporary dike, and link it to other temporary dikes on adjacent properties, as specified by the City or its designated representative(s)
  • Build a temporary dike using materials, a method of construction, and to a height and width, as specified by the City or its designated representative(s)
  • Monitor dikes for seepage and pump out water, as necessary
  • Maintain, repair, or improve the temporary dike, as necessary
  • Remove and dispose of sandbags, when directed to do so

If you, as a property owner, do not comply with the By-law, the City can legally take action to build, maintain, monitor and/or remove a dike on your property, and add the costs of this work to your property taxes.


How do you determine my property is at risk?

Using flood forecast information from the Province of Manitoba, land survey data and river modeling tools, the City identifies homes and properties that may need a dike to protect against river flooding.

Although your property may be at risk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to build a dike. This will depend on many factors, including the geodetic position of your property in relation to the forecasted river levels. The geodetic position of your property is its vertical and horizontal position and is determined through land surveying.

Does the City need to survey my property?

The City must re-confirm the geodetic position of your property and mark the location of any dike that may be required. While the City maintains historical records of this information, there may have been physical changes that could negatively impact your secondary dike flood protection (i.e., riverbank changes, new shed, trees).

Survey crews, made up of either designated City employees and/or consultants retained by the City, will visit your property to mark the location and elevation of any diking that may be required. Please do not relocate or remove the stakes used to mark your property.

Dike building

Should I build a dike now that my property has been surveyed and staked?

No, a City representative will contact you IF AND WHEN you need to start building your dike.

Whether or not you need a dike and when to build it depends on a few factors:

  1. Freeboard is the two extra feet of protection, beyond the forecasted peak river level. Freeboard is built into your dike height. If your planned dike is within freeboard height, you may not have to build. Dike requirements are dependent on the amount of available freeboard when compared to the forecasted peak river level and are subject to change, depending on factors such as actual river levels, ice jams and precipitation amounts.
  2. Dikes are generally built “just in time” for a few reasons:
    • As the river levels start to rise, City staff has to determine whether a dike is, in fact, required for your property. This is based on close monitoring of river levels, water flows, precipitation and potential ice jams.
    • There can’t be any snow where the dike is being built, otherwise it will compromise the integrity of the dike.
    • It has to be warm enough so that the sandbags don’t freeze, to ensure the bags form a protective seal against water seepage when they are placed together.
  3. There are a few locations across the city where the City may decide to build a temporary clay dike instead of a sandbag dike. You will be notified by a City representative if this is the case for your property.

The City has advised me to build a dike, now what?

We will attempt to provide you with four to five days’ notice to complete the dike.

  1. Preparing dike location – Be sure to remove any ice, snow, obstacles or debris where the dike is to be located.
  2. Sandbag delivery – Contact the Dike Operations Centre (DOC) to arrange for the delivery of sandbags and plastic sheeting. Please advise the DOC as to where the materials should be placed. The number of bags will be determined based on the dimensions of the dike you need to build to protect your property. Delivery trucks carry about 500 sandbags per load.
  3. Building a proper dike – Familiarize yourself with the proper method for dike by reviewing the information below. If requested, a City representative can also provide guidance.

  4. A diagram of the construction of a sandbag dike, City of Winnipeg Photo

    For more detailed information on how to build a dike, we strongly recommend you watch our building a sandbag dike videos below:

    1. Locating the dike

    2. Sandbagging and safety

    3. How to build the dike

  5. Assistance with dike building – As a property owner, it is up to you to find, direct and manage a team of volunteers to help you build a sandbag dike. Use your informal networks like family, friends and co-workers or social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find volunteers. Safety tips for you and your volunteers can be found here.
  6. Monitoring your dike – As the property owner, you are expected to monitor for leaks and pump out any water that may seep through your dike. Have extra sandbags on hand to strengthen any weak spots in the dike. We recommend that you have a water pump on hand (available for purchase at local hardware stores). If you notice any issues, contact the Dike Operations Centre.
  7. Removing your dike – The City will notify you when you can take down your dike. Property owners are responsible for removing the dike and safely disposing of used sandbags at the Brady Road 4R Winnipeg Depot. Any unused sandbags can be repurposed for landscaping. We recommend that you follow the sandbagging safety tips when removing your dike.

    You should also follow the Province of Manitoba’s recommended procedures for cleaning up after a flood:

Safety tips for sandbagging

There are many things you and your volunteers can do to stay safe when building a sandbag dike. Here are some tips:

Start safe:

  • Check with your volunteers to ensure they do not have any medical conditions that would make it dangerous for them to participate. Even if they can help out, make sure they understand that they should not do anything that could compromise their health or safety.
  • Ensure your volunteers are wearing appropriate clothing that can get dirty:
    • Slip-resistant and water-resistant footwear, like work boots or rubber boots
    • Work gloves
    • Full-length pants (no shorts)
    • Long-sleeved shirt and jacket (dress for weather conditions)
    • No jewelry (especially rings, watches or bracelets)
  • Recommend to your volunteers that they:
    • Reduce sun exposure by wearing sunscreen, a hat and/or sunglasses
    • Don’t use any personal electronics devices or headphones, as they can prevent them from hearing warnings or instructions
    • Follow the directions of the site leader
    • Take breaks and stay hydrated
    • Wash their hands after working with the sandbags
    • Be aware of their surroundings including large equipment, flooded holes in the ground, etc.
  • Identify any safety hazards on your property or potential dangers to your volunteers. If you cannot alleviate these, warn your volunteers about them.

Handle sandbags safely:

Sandbags weigh around 18 kg/40 lbs and moving them the wrong way may lead to pain or injury.

Here are some tips to reduce the risk of injury when handling sandbags:

  • Keep your back in a straight position and avoid bending more than 20 degrees in any direction
  • Keep sandbags close to your body, carrying them between your knees and shoulders
  • If working near moving water, work in pairs and wear a personal floatation device (PFD)

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