Flood Mitigation

  • Brad Stelfox: Living at the River’s Edge

    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.

  • Does a flood mitigation “dry dam” require an environmental assessment? by Adam Driedzic

    Today's post is courtesy of Adam Driedzic, Staff Counsel at the Environmental Law Centre, and first appeared on the ELC blog. If you would like to read more about environmental legislation, public policy or regulation, visit the Environmental Law Centre website or blog.

  • Flood Mitigation in the Bow Basin

    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.

  • Keep Them Out Of The Floodways by Don Barnett

    The following is a speech given by Don Barnett to the Inland Waters Directorate of Environment Canada in 1976. Don Barnett was mayor of Rapid City, South Dakota during one of the worst floods in South Dakota's history and at the time of this speech one of the worst floods in U.S. history. 

    We hope that the speech below will stir some thoughts from you, our readers, on how to mitigate floods in the future in Southern Alberta. 

  • Make A Difference - Actions For Individuals To Mitigate Flood and Drought | Collect Data

    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

  • Rewilding Our Rivers Discussion Series: A Recipe for Greater Resiliency by Lauren Eden

    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.

  • Rewilding Our Rivers: A Discussion Series On Natural Flood Mitigation Options by Lauren Eden

    A recent article written in The Guardian by scientist George Monbiot[1]discusses emergent research coming out of the United Kingdom that tells us rivers do not necessarily store the precipitation that falls in their catchments; but rather the majority of the precipitation is stored in the soils of their floodplains  This scientific finding directly questions the value of traditional flood mitigation measures, such as canalizing and dredging rivers, techniques that are now known to increase flow rates to downstream communities.

    Some scientists are now pushing for the implementation of softer engineered solutions, such as the rewilding of our rivers. Rewilding rivers, among other elements, requires the redesigning of curves and snags back into the river system along with connecting rivers to uninhabited land designated for flooding.The likelihood for downstream flooding can be greatly reduced by creating a catchment for sediment and rock, ultimately reducing the energy and speed of the river.

  • Rewilding Our Rivers: Wetlands – Nature’s Kidneys by Lauren Eden

    Last week we learned the value of healthy soils and their role in flood mitigation . This week in honour of World Wetland Day 2014 on February 2, the Rewilding Our Rivers Discussion Series  will turn its attention to the significance of wetlands and their potential role in flood mitigation.

    Wetlands are often called planet earth’s kidneys because of their ability to purify our water supply through natural filtration systems that absorb heavy metals and other harmful containments (like phosphorus). Wetlands are complex ecologies that offer many benefits and functions to our shared bio systems - most notably, they are able to retain and store water. In essence, wetlands act like sponges; they absorb rainfall, slowly saturate soil systems, and eventually recharge aquifers. By retaining and storing water, wetlands reduce the speed and volume of water entering our streams and rivers. This can be particularly important for some flood events. 

    Wetlands near Utikuma Lake 
    "Wetlands near Utikuma Lake, northern Alberta 2010" by Gord McKenna is licenced under CC BY 2.0.

    The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as areas of marshes, bogs, fens and peatlands. They are ecosystems that contain plant and animal life in water saturated areas. A wetlands’ ability to retain and store water is greatly dependent on its soil system. For instance, peatlands have a significantly greater capacity to retain and store water because they are made up of rich organic matter developed over thousands of years. This highlights the symbiotic relationship between wetlands and healthy soil systems and the role they can play in flood mitigation. Peatlands have become important ecosystems to protect on a global scale due to the simple fact that they are nearly impossible to reconstruct. One example of this is located in our back yard. Alberta is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Ramsar Convention Wetland of international importance located in the Peace-Athabasca Delta in the Wood Buffalo National Park.

  • The 2013 Great Alberta Flood: Progress Report on Actions to Mitigate, Manage and Control Flooding

    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.

  • The 2013 Great Flood: Actions to Mitigate, Manage, and Control Future Floods

    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.