Historical Review of Flood and Drought Detention and Diversion Sites


Alberta WaterSMART Solutions Ltd. (WaterSMART) was commissioned by the GoA to conduct historical reviews of the Athabasca, Elbow and Red Deer River watersheds to determine previously identified flood and drought mitigation options. The reports analyzed existing historical maps, reports and investigations that contain information with respect to previously proposed strategies for flood and drought mitigation. Historical records were obtained from the Government of Canada, Province of Alberta and City of Calgary archives. Records were also obtained from the Calgary Public Library, Glenbow Museum Archives and the University of Calgary Library.  Dr. John Gilpin, a Western Canada Water Resource Historian, and Lauren Eden, a Researcher at WaterSMART, conducted the research and reviewed the findings. The maps included in the reports outline the historically identified diversion and detention sites. These maps referenced the historical records and were created by a GrandDuke Geomatics a company specializing in Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  

Upon review of the historical documentation related to water diversion and detention sites on the Athabasca, Elbow and Red Deer Rivers from the past 110 years, WaterSMART discovered a number of possible flood and drought mitigation options.  The historical reviews showed there are similarities between how flood and drought mitigation have been addressed in Alberta over the past century. 

Historically identified solutions for flood mitigation have been in the form of: 

  • overland diversions;
  • detention sites;
  • floodplain zoning restrictions;
  • ecological restoration of the watershed;
  • storage in the headwaters;
  • system of dykes; and 
  • reinforced natural storage basins. 

Historically identified solutions for drought mitigation have been in the form of water storage sites some of which link to large gravity feed irrigation schemes. 

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