The Bog

The Bog is where thoughts, opinions, discussion pieces, and action converge. Influential thinkers from the water community are invited to share their insights on current or controversial water topics. Please note that the views expressed herein are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Alberta WaterPortal.

Naturalist, hunter and former Banff National Park superintendent Kevin Van Tighem revisits his July 2013 article entitled "Safeguarding the Source”,  

This article, published in the July 2013 edition of Alberta Views magazine, remains no less relevant in the wake of last year's destructive flooding (driven by an exceptional precipitation event but made worse by damaged headwaters landscapes that shed the water too fast) and by the public consultations, which will conclude this month, on a draft land use plan for the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

We at the Alberta WaterPortal are pleased to reveal our new website. A driving force behind the redesign of the Alberta WaterPortal was the desire to create a website with more intuitive navigation. Content is now sorted into three major categories: Learn, Work, and Enjoy.

Learn

The “Learn” area acts as a library of knowledge on water to inform users about the origins of Alberta’s water, how water is used, water management in our province, the relationship between water, energy and food, and the impact of water on daily life.

Work

The “Work” area presents projects and research conducted by the Alberta water community, showcases existing groups within the water community, and provides a toolkit of resources for those whose work/volunteering revolves around water. Visitors to the Alberta WaterPortal can learn more about the Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs), Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGOs), industry organizations, and academic and government institutions focused on water-related issues. We will be adding to the water community section over the coming weeks and if you would like to see your organization included please contact us. 

Enjoy

The “Enjoy” area focuses on personal, primarily recreational, uses of water. Download a water related app for your mobile device, learn about water conservation techniques, or check for weather advisories to ensure that Alberta’s water may be enjoyed responsibly and safely.

What else is new?

The Province of Alberta has been operating under a draft wetland policy for the white zone (the lower third of the Province) for the past 20 years since draft policy was created for white zone wetlands and a discussion paper created for green zone wetlands. Many of us have been patiently waiting for a comprehensive policy that addresses all of the wetlands in Alberta, and on September 10, 2013 our wish was granted by Environment Minister Diana McQueen.

The biggest bombshell in the new comprehensive policy is the removal of the no-net loss provisions and philosophy contained within the previous draft policy. The current policy simply does not allow for an increase in wetland area in the province, nor does it address past losses. The removal is essentially an admission of our failure as a Province to even come close to meeting the objectives of no net loss. And, with losses of up to 70% of our white zone (prairie pothole) wetlands in the south, over 300,000 hectares of wetlands in the oil sands and over 90% loss of wetlands in major urban centres, it is hard to argue with trying to continue to giving lip service to the no net loss principles of avoid, minimize and compensate.

A final copy of The 2013 Great Alberta Flood: Actions to Mitigate, Manage and Control Future Floods whitepaper has been released. This document consists of collaborative recommendations made by Canada’s leading water experts. The document has been evolving for over a month thanks to the received feedback from water experts and Albertans. This document was written as a collaborative teamwork to determine the recommended actions that should be taken to strategize for future flooding.

During the creation of this report, two draft versions were posted here with the request for public feedback. The response was excellent, leading to the creation of a separate feedback document titled The 2013 Great Alberta Flood: Actions to Mitigate, Manage and Control Future Floods Feedback Compendium which catelogues the feedback received. 

We’d like to thank everyone who sent in feedback on the draft iteration when it was posed two weeks ago. Additional information about this document will be posted on the Alberta WaterSMART website as it arises.  

If you didn’t get a chance to share your feedback or if you have additional thoughts after reading the final version of the whitepaper please do not hesitate to contact us, and like always please continue to check our news section for updates on what is happening around water in Alberta.

The 2013 flood of the Bow River basin has triggered a long-overdue conversation about the natural and man-made factors that caused or contributed to these types of events. Across society, people are now asking pointed questions that relate to mitigation, prevention, headwater management, overlapping landuses, floodplain infrastructure, climate change, and flood proofing.

The WaterSMART White Paper provides an excellent broad overview of the complexity of this watershed issue and makes clear that integrated solutions are required to meaningfully address this challenge. Appropriately, the WaterSMART report identifies that both engineering and landscape management approaches are required if watershed integrity of the Bow River basin is to be conserved and risk to infrastructure is to managed at an acceptable level.

As a resident of the Sunnyside community in Calgary, our neighborhood was extensively flooded and most families experienced serious damage to their basements, and in some cases, structural damage to their homes. In comparison to the residents of lower Benchlands, High River, and many other communities, we escaped relatively unscathed. In the aftermath of these events, we are told that those who have experienced flooding are expected to go through the emotions of anger, denial, depression and acceptance. For most affected by the flood, there is a basic need to understand what happened and what factors contributed to an event that so forcefully changed our lives. Over the next several months, more information will certainly come forward to help residents better understand the weather, landscape, and landuse dynamics that shaped this massive event, but a few thoughts are respectfully offered below to help put some of these dynamics into context.