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.

Our two previous blogs posts focused on how to collect weather data and how to engineer a yard to mitigate against flood and drought. Part three in our “Make A Difference” series focuses on watershed planning. Healthy landscapes are better able to withstand flooding as well as drought and there are numerous organizations in Alberta working to maintain the health of Alberta’s watersheds.   

Give time to existing water focused organizations

One of the easiest ways to help mitigate flooding is to donate time to one of the many groups in Alberta that monitor, manage, or help to protect headwater, wetlands, riparian areas, lakes and rivers. The workload of these organizations is growing all the time and increasingly crucial. Many of these groups are volunteer driven and can utilize the help and skills you can bring to the table.

The Alberta WaterPortal is pleased to announce the launch of the Alberta Water Research Module (AWRM). We would like to extend our thanks to Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES) for generously helping support the development of this module as well as the relaunch of the Alberta WaterPortal website that occurred back in January.  

Long time users of the WaterPortal may remember the previous version of the research module called the Alberta Water Data Module. The Data Module allowed viewers to access real-time data and find reports and information on water in Alberta. The new AWRM incorporates elements of the older version of the data module but has been refocused as an information database. The reports in the older data module are still available and recently released reports have been added to the AWRM. 

One new feature of the AWRM is the ability to search article ‘tags’. Tags are helpful if you want to search for a specific subject matter and related terms. If you begin typing a term into the ‘Tags’ box the program will begin to display similar words that have been used to tag articles in the Module. 

Welcome to the second installment in our series on how small, individual efforts can positively contribute to flood and drought mitigation. While much attention had been paid to community scale mitigation projects and methods, individuals can still play a role in mitigating floods. Although one person cannot hold back the entirety of future flood waters on their own, engaging in any number of small acts can make some of a difference, especially in smaller scale events.

Engineer Your Garden or Yard

In the 1990s, a group of farmers from Pontbren, England decided to forgo their usual hill farming strategy, which relied on digging ditches and removing hedges or trees. Instead they began to plant shelterbelts and build ponds. Studies found the water in Pontbren was channeled into the ground by (the newly added) tree roots and that the soil under trees acts as a sponge absorbing water 67 times faster than the soil under grass[1][2]. Even more impressive is that the tree soil acts as a reservoir and released water very slowly. If all Pontbren farmers opted for reforestation one study found that peak flooding downstream would be reduced by about 29% and full reforestation would reduce peak flooding by 50% downstream.

While much attention had been paid to large community scale mitigation projects and methods, there are opportunities for individuals to play a role in mitigating flooding. To tap into these opportunities the WaterPortal will be sharing a series of blogs entitled “Make A Difference - Actions For Individuals To Mitigate Flood and Drought” which focuses on small, individual efforts that can positively contribute to flood (and drought) mitigation. Spoilers: it all has to do with what we know about, and the health, of our watersheds.

To be very clear, a single person will not be able hold back the entirety of future flood waters on their own. However, enough people engaging in small acts can make a difference, especially in smaller scale events. 

Damage from flooding is generally caused by a combination of:

  1. speed of water
  2. quantity of water, 
  3. or an insufficient information or data.

The following series of blog posts will present a number of ways individuals can help mitigate future floods along the three ways flood damage occurs.

 

Measuring Rain, Hail, and Snow 

“The Rain Doesn’t Fall The Same On All” - Unknown

As the flood waters rose in 2013 I was tagged in a post from my friend Drew, who works at Google, asking for help finding someone at the City of Calgary who could provide permission to update the Google Crisis Map. Luckily, I was able to help make the needed contact as I continued to update the WaterPortal with the continuously changing information on the flood. One year later, I've asked Drew to recount his experience working in the Google Crisis Centre during the Southern Alberta flood of 2013.

Calgary Crisis Map - Alberta Flood 2013

My name is Drew Cormier. I was born at Rockyview General Hospital and raised in the Deer River community of Calgary. My summers were filled with street hockey and biking through Fish Creek Park and the winters revolved around building the best snow forts with my friends. Despite moving out of Calgary in 2001, I have always considered it my hometown. More recently, I moved to California to begin working at Google in October of 2012.

In June of 2013, only 7 months after I had begun my new job and life, I started to see disturbing trickles of information pertaining to Calgary through social media. Twitter began to have more and more alerts pertaining to alerts and advisories. Facebook began to fill up with images and videos from friends of flooded streets and evacuations. News websites showed rising water levels at Calgary landmarks like the Saddledome and cars being stranded.

The final push I needed to begin helping was when I saw that the neighborhood I grew up in had been evacuated. The house I was raised in, my friends and their families that I grew up with, had all been evacuated because of the rising Bow River. At that point I knew I had to do something to help.