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.

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. 

The Bow River Basin Council Quarterly Meeting and Networking Forum was held on March 12th at the TransAlta Auditorium. This sold out event brought together participants and speakers from throughout the southern Alberta water community. Part 1 was published on April 1st and you can read the first entry here.  

Citizen Science

Dinah Duke from the Miistakis Institute discussed  Citizen Science or Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR). Two Misstakis projects were highlighted in the presentation:  

Road Watch in the Pass utilizes local knowledge of animal movement across Highway 3 to help reduce large mammal mortality rates. 

• The Leave it to Beavers Watershed Stewardship project is studying the introduction of two beaver families to the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area southwest of Calgary. Citizens were asked to collect data before and after the reintroduction of beavers to demonstrate their role in watershed stewardship. This project also combined citizen participation with a formal monitoring program to study riparian health inventories and water quality. 

Duke noted some of the advantages and disadvantages that arise from citizen science. Citizen Science provides a number of benefits including allowing citizen engage in the decision making process and providing data that would be challenging and expensive to collect via conventional research methods. However, there are challenges with respect to recruitment and retention of participants including reconciling competing goals, obtaining needed resources, sustainability, evaluating and measuring success, and measuring conservational goals. If you are interested in participating one of the programs offered visit the Miistakis Institute website or follow the Miistakis Institute on twitter

To explore additional PPSR projects check out: Audubon Bird CountZooniverseFold It, FLOCAST, and ASFPRM.

Forestry Perspective on Watershed Management

A representative from Spray Lakes Sawmills provided a presentation on  the complexity of managing the headwaters from a forestry perspective. While a common recommendation is to protect the headwaters, the presenter argues that this notion is overly simplified. Rather than protect the headwaters, the presenter argues a better approach might be to manage the headwaters.

March 31st was the due date for multiple reports from engineering groups to submit assessments of "flood reduction projects options". As those reports become publically available they will be added to the Alberta WaterPortal for our users to view. 

One final report that is already public is Alberta WaterSMART's final report for the Bow Basin Flood Mitigation and Watershed Management Project. It was submitted to the ADM Flood Recovery Task Force on March 31st. This project was funded by Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions and the Task Force.

The Bow River Basin Council Quarterly Meeting and Networking Forum was held on March 12th at the TransAlta Auditorium. This sold out event brought together participants and speakers from throughout the southern Alberta water community. This first blog post covers the flood specific updates from the March 12th meeting. The rest of the activities will be posted next week.

High River Mitigation Update 

Doug Holmes spoke on behalf of the Town of High River. He opened by saying in High River, as elsewhere, development has occurred close to water which has created conflicts. He explained that modeling has been completed to study how water came into the town, where it stayed and how it left. Currently, properties in the neighbourhoods of Wallaceville and Beachwood have been bought out, 108 properties have been removed and a temporary dike has been constructed in the south. To see the placement of mitigation projects in visit the High River Flood Mitigation Projects webpage.    

Saturday March 29th is Earth Hour, a worldwide event organized by World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The event began in one city and six years later Earth Hour events span 7,000 cities, touches 7 continents and includes hundreds of millions of participants. During Earth Hour individuals, communities, households and businesses are encouraged to turn off their non-essential lights between 8:30 and 9:30pm in your local time zone. This simple act is intended to “encourage an interconnected global community to share the opportunities and challenges of creating a sustainable world” (to read more about Earth Hour visit the WWF website). Congratulations to Edmonton for being named the Earth Hour Capital of Canada by the WWF!