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Sandbagging and other temporary barriers

The City does not protect private property from flooding. We encourage property owners take measures to protect their own property from flooding and other hazards. See a list of actions the City takes to prepare for flooding. For more flloding preparation tips and resources, visit What You Can Do To Prepare for Flooding.

Using temporary flooding barriers

Temporary barriers such as sand bags or flood tubes can be used to help protect personal property; however, they should not be used to protect people. They are only measures to reduce potential property damage. Temporary measures, such as sandbagging or flood tubes, should only be considered in the short-term until permanent measures can be implemented and only for small amounts of water.

Flood warning times for Calgary's rivers can be less than 12 hours and often don't allow homeowners enough time to implement temporary measures. We recommend permanent flood protection measures over temporary ones as they offer superior protection and installation is not dependent on advance warning.

If you plan to use temporary mitigation measures on your property

  • You should not stay behind to monitor or install mitigation measures on your property if an evacuation notice is issued for your community.
  • Plan your mitigation measures before runoff season.
  • Know the proper installation and dismantling techniques. Some mitigation measures may take more time to set up than others.
  • Ensure measures do not negatively impact neighbouring properties. Citizens cannot block roads or place temporary measures on public property.
  • Homeowners considering installations should contact the City for more information (403-268-5311).

Placing temporary flooding barriers

Erect temporary barriers in your neiborhood

Temporary and permanent flood barriers must be set back at least six metres from the edge of the floodway on a property.

The floodway is set out in The City of Calgary's Land Use Bylaw. The purpose of the floodway and the setback are to accommodate water flow and minimize objects that may obstruct the floodway.

If you live adjacent to either the Bow or Elbow rivers, you can check The City of Calgary's flood map pages to confirm the location of the floodway boundary on your property.

Temporary mitigation is best looked at as a short-term measure designed to help protect against small amounts of water. Temporary mitigation measures can create challenges such as storm water drainage, access and egress difficulties, and obstruction of river flow. The design, planning, alignment, deployment and removal/disposal of any temporary measures need to be carefully considered. Temporary barriers only prevent overland flooding - your property may still be susceptible to groundwater seepage.

Determining what types of flooding barriers to use

There are a few things to consider before setting up barriers. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What size of barrier should I use?
  • How do I stabilize and anchor barriers?
  • How long does it take to erect and dismantle the barrier?
  • Is there a negative impact or liability with neighbouring properties?
  • Does the barrier pose risks to personal and/or public safety?
  • Does the barrier impact access and egress to my or any property?
  • Are there concerns about vandalism?
  • What are the regulatory considerations to remove or dispose of the barrier?
  • Where do I store it when it's not in use?

The City of Calgary does not instruct or train property owners on available flood mitigation methods and proper installation and operations. All questions regarding risks and the proper operations, installation, removal or dismantling of flood mitigation methods should be directed to the supplier of the flood mitigation materials.

Types of temporary barriers


If you choose to sandbag your property, keep in mind that it takes two people one hour to fill and place 100 sandbags. This is about what is required to build a wall about 30 cm (1 foot) high and six metres (20 feet) long.

Make sure you have enough sand, burlap or plastic bags, shovels, strong helpers and time to place them properly. Contact your local landscaping or home building supply company for sandbag material.

Flood tubes

Homeowners considering the use of water-filled flood tubes need to consider a number of factors including the stability of the tubes, the tube's effectiveness, potential impacts on neighbouring properties, any obstruction of river flows, property access, lot drainage, proper disposal and treatment of water, inadvertent property damage and personal safety. You should seek the advice of professionals and know your risk when using temporary flood barriers.

The city will not fill flood tubes for individuals. Flood tubes can be filled with a normal garden hose. Depending on the size, flood tubes could take several hours to fill and the bigger one metre diameter size taking up to approximately 10 hours. Early setup may be required.

Individuals may get access to city hydrants by hiring a water hauling contractor who has rented a Hydrant Control Unit (HCU) from the city. There are a limited number of HCUs available for rent from the city.

There are a number of logistical issues individuals should consider when accessing an HCU, including the distance from the hydrant to the tubes, impacts to access and egress and coordination with other property owners. Also note that a contractor may not be able to access the site if an evacuation has been ordered.

Property owners need to consider how the flood tubes will be emptied after use. This must be done in such a way as to prevent impacts on the homeowners, property and on neighbours' property.

If fresh water is used, it needs to be disposed of properly and cannot be emptied into the river or storm water system without being properly treated to remove chlorine. Visit the water disposal permit requirements section on our Erosion and Sediment Control page for more information.