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.

With the one year anniversary of the 2013 flooding in Southern Alberta approaching it is important to consider moving beyond the initial flood recovery stages and to dive deeper into what it means to rebuild resiliency into our social and ecological systems. This blog will explore the theory of ecological resiliency and its application to social resilience. In a second installment, this blog will discuss the concept of socio-ecological resiliency. The intention of this series is to enhance our shared ecological literacy so we can begin to move forward and conceptualize resilient methods to mitigate and manage future floods or droughts within the Province. 

In order to understand the importance of building our socio-ecological resiliency we must first understand ecological resiliency and how it has been applied to our social systems. 

Two reports have been released from AI-EES and Alberta WaterSMART, one with conclusions from the February Workshop and another which compares the Alberta Flood Forecast system to other jurisdictions from across Canada and the globe. These reports focus on flood forecasting rather than flood mitigation, and are a follow up to a workshop we live tweeted back in February. As always, if you have feedback we will send it on to the authors. 

Having attended the workshop, the following would be the top three most interesting things (to the author) mentioned at the workshop.

1. Data Collection - Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRahs)

One problem that plagues flood forecasting is a lack of data, however that may change with enough citizen involvement. CoCoRahs is a volunteer program where individuals measure the rain at their home every day and submit information to a database thereby expanding the available data. This database can then be used by Flood Forecasters, Researchers, Modellers, or whoever is just curious to view the data or calibrate models. CoCoRaHs is a popular tool used in the U.S. that allows citizens to provide rainfall data to flood forecasting specialists. Specifically, Colorado used CoCoRaHs as an additional tool for acquiring precipitation data to determine water quantities during their 2013 flood. If you’re interested in contributing, visit the CoCoRahs website for more information. Data collected from southern basins Alberta will be used put to good use. The data submitted from southern Alberta basins eventually feed into the Manitoba River Forecast Centre which uses CoCoRahs in their forecasting systems.

Today is the one-day symposium Alberta’s Watershed Management Symposium: Flood and Drought Mitigation and the Alberta WaterPortal staff will be in attendance to live tweet the event. The Government of Alberta's event aims to “share the latest updates on snowpack data and river forecasting, as well as assessments of mitigation option for Alberta’s most flood-prone river basins”[1]. If you can not attend the event we'd encourage you to follow us on twitter to receive updates throughout the day. 

The event should see the release of new reports that address the feasibility of options that were presented at the October 4th Symposium. This blog post will be updated with those reports at the end of the day. In the meanwhile we've assembled a list of released reports to date. If we've missed any please leave a comment  so that we may also add them to the list.

makeitcount-earthday

Although Earth Day is a fantastic celebration of everything green we do, it is also a day that invites the obvious question: “why only one day a year?”. Earth Day Canada has addressed this criticism this year with their “Make it Count” campaign, which has asked Canadians to set Earth friendly goals and track them throughout the year. What is fantastic about this campaign is that I know firsthand what they are proposing works because I tried it last year. However, instead of setting goals I committed to one relatively simple resolution. 

During the June 2013 flood, the front pages of newspapers and websites across Alberta and Canada displayed images of overland flooding.  In the months following however, news coverage began to focus on a different contributor: groundwater. Flooded basements, sewer back-ups, out of service elevators, cracked foundations, water mysteriously appearing behind berms; these were all symptoms of groundwater flooding. Simply put, groundwater flooding can cause at least as much damage as overland flooding; a fact that has often been overlooked and under-recognized.

What is going on underground?

There are a number of ways in which groundwater can contribute to flood damage: 

Seepage:  In the case of groundwater seepage, a build-up of water in the ground causes the underground water table to rise to the level of subsurface structures (e.g. basements, garages and underground parkades).  Water then seeps into the structures through cracks and other structural faults; 

Sewage back-up:  In the case of sewage back-up, water on flooded streets drains into manholes, causing an overload of the sanitary sewer system. This can force sewage water back through the sewer line and into basements; 

The above contributors to flooding can occur individually or simultaneously, and may be further exacerbated by overland flooding.

Since it is commonly believed that the easiest way for water to enter buildings from the subsurface is through the sewer system, basement flooding has often been blamed on sewage back-up when, in fact, the culprit may be groundwater. Understanding the role that the groundwater environment plays during flooding events is of the utmost importance in terms of identifying areas at risk.