PUBLISHED: 29 November 2013

Water Experts

Water experts in Alberta played an important role before, during and after the 2013 floods providing information and knowledge to government, municipalities, and citizens. Prior to the June flooding, water experts across Alberta and in different provinces held various positions responsible for water policy, infrastructure and services. Once the flooding began on June 19th, these various levels of expertise were called upon to aid in flood response and recovery. After flood-waters receded and the full-extent of damage was realized across southern Alberta, water experts were then engaged to plan the next steps forward. 

Robert Sandford, the Canadian chairman of the United Nations Water for Life Decade initiative, provided insights and expertise in the area of flood prediction and the need for a national system. Sandford’s advice to government for a national system of flood prediction, resulted from failed prediction measures. Had better prediction measures been put in place they  would have provided southern Albertan municipalities with more time and information to prepare for flooding. Sanford’s message for improved  flood warning  systems coincides with reviews of mitigation measures currently underway. Taken together, Sandford’s expertise and reviews of water forecasting and mitigation practices in the province should produce an improved flood response system for future events. 

John Pomeroy, Research Chair in Water Resources & Climate Change at the University of Saskatchewan, explained that the June 2013 floods permanently altered the Rocky Mountain and foothills landscape compromising how that area will be able to handle future flooding[1]. Additionally, the silt and debris carried by the Bow River heavily impacted trout populations in the river threatening their habitat and future livelihood. Pomeroy’s suggestions for future flood mitigation measures include the need for improved municipal planning that incorporates floodways and flood maps. Alberta WaterSMART, led by CEO Kim Sturgess, had an important role to play in flood response measures and analysis after the flooding impacted southern Alberta.  The development of their collaborative paper, The 2013 Great Alberta Flood: Actions to Mitigate, Manage and Control Future Floods, provided the groundwork and collaboration necessary for water experts to provide solutions. In their paper, WaterSMART provides six recommendations for future planning and flood mitigation efforts[2]. Each recommendation carefully outlines the need for collaborative, well-thought out solutions to future extreme weather events. 

Responses from a variety of other groups included Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA), the Canadian Academy of Engineering, Cooperators Insurance on flood insurance issues, and environmental organizations. Each of these groups provided advice and expertise in their area of specialty; structural and civil engineering, flooding insurance as it relates to homes and businesses, and water management from an environmental perspective. Including these areas of expertise in a collaborative approach will continue to play an important role in future flood mitigation strategies.  

[1] “Alberta’s Floods have changed the Rockies forever, Says Scientist.” The Canadian Press. Published June 26, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2013.  

[2] “The 2013 Great Alberta Flood: Actions to Mitigate, Manage and Control Future Floods.” Alberta WaterSMART. Published August 2, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2013.