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.

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! 

As Canadian Water Week winds down  we would like to share a series of videos on innovative stormwater management in British Columbia produced by the Master of Land and Water Systems (MLWS) program.  

The following introduction is by Dr. Hans Schreier

In August 2013, Alberta WaterSMART released the collaborative White Paper, The 2013 Great Alberta Flood: Actions to Mitigate, Manage and Control Future Floods. A broad group of practitioners from across Alberta, Canada and the world participated in developing this paper. The paper was created to provide proactive recommendations for flood management in Alberta.   

During the creation of the paper, two draft versions were posted on the Alberta WaterPortal with the intent of collecting public feedback. The response was excellent, leading to the creation of two separate feedback documents, which are available here.

Since the release of the original White Paper, much has been accomplished by different levels of government, various provincial organizations, businesses and individuals. To reflect these efforts, Alberta WaterSMART has revisited the recommendations outlined in the White Paper and created The 2013 Great Alberta Flood: Progress Report on Actions to Mitigate, Manage and Control Flooding to highlight actions and activities undertaken to date, and to outline planned next steps.

Over the past several weeks we have been on a learning journey teaching us how ecologically healthy watersheds mitigate for flood flow volumes. Specifically we have learned that:

  • healthy soils rich in organic matter hold and store more water than depleted soil systems;
  • established wetlands act as sponges across the landscape absorbing surface water runoff, subsequently replenishing our aquifers while slowly releasing runoff into our streams and rivers;
  • dense riparian edges provide buffer zones that slow down high flow volumes, and at the same time, filter surface and subsurface runoff; and
  • undeveloped vegetated floodplains provide the river room to meander and attenuate flood flow volumes via established roots structures.

This has all highlighted the beneficial flood mitigation functions these ecologies offer us and led us to this final blog in the series.

We have touched on the multifunctional role these ecologies play in providing us with many other important ecosystem goods and services such as drought mitigation, improved water quality and biodiversity, erosion control, climate regulation, important habitats for aquatic and terrestrial species, and recreational spaces for humans. This is a reminder that investing in the ecological resiliency of our watersheds for flood mitigation creates many other positive feedback loops.

Alberta is home to many meandering rivers. This is seen in the way they weave back and forth across the landscape. These meandering rivers continue to move across the land as their edges erode, and during floods and high streamflow when the alluvial fan is filled with sediment forcing the water to find a new path.

Last week Commander Chris Hadfield tweeted a link to a 28 year timelapse of a meandering river in Peru. It can be seen below.

Alberta's rivers are mostly too small to see active meandering on the timelapse however you can see some meandering in the Elbow River above the Glenmore Reservoir. Let us know if you find a better example.