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History of Calgary stormwater management

Learn more about the history of Calgary's stormwater drainage system. For a list of common questions about our stormwater system, visit our Stormwater Drainage System FAQ.

The City's Stormwater Management Strategy

To ensure that we are doing our part to protect our rivers and wildlife, The City has developed aStormwater Management Strategy. This strategy aims to protect watershed health as the city continues to grow.

Around the city you can see the Stormwater Management Strategy in action through the construction of new rain garden projects, and wet ponds and wetlands in established communities. Newer communities are starting to incorporate a variety of low impact development practices into their designs. There are also several initiatives happening behind the scenes, such as policy development, research projects and partnerships.

Over 100 years of stormwater management in Calgary

2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004
2000 1998 1994 1993 1988 1979 1960 pre-1960


Stormwater Management and Design Manual
The updated version of thestormwater management and design manual is released.

Rain Gardens
The first two rain gardens are constructed in the community of Winston Heights-Mountview. Two other rain gardens are constructed on the site of the Glenmore Water Treatment plant.

Ralph Klein Park
The City officially opens Ralph Klein Park, a 30-hectare site containing a day use and picnic area next to The Environmental Education and Ethics Centre. The Shepard Wetland, a 227-hectare man-made wetland that uses natural vegetation to treat stormwater before it is discharged into the Bow River, surrounds the park and is opened at the same time.

Stormwater retrofit projects
Bowmont West and Greenview McCall stormwater quality retrofit projects completed.


Watershed protection
The Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation plan include policies for watershed protection: sustainable stormwater practices and low impact development.

Sustainable stormwater management technology
Newer Calgary communities (Currie Barracks and Saddle Ridge) include sustainable stormwater management technology such as rain gardens and bioswales.

Bioretention cell research
A study completed in collaboration with the University of Calgary demonstrates promising results in reducing stormwater runoff volumes and reducing total suspended solids loadings using bioretention cells.

Permeable Pavement research
A study completed in collaboration with University of Calgary determines the viability of permeable pavement.

Stormwater retrofit projects
The City completes two stormwater quality retrofit projects (Burnsmead and Heron Colony/Acadia Natural areas), bringing the total to eight completed projects that will help reduce total suspended solids loadings to the Bow River. These projects provide stormwater treatment to areas of the city that had little or no treatment before.


Wetland Conservation Plan
The Wetland Conservation Plan is developed. The plan sets priorities and explores alternatives for wetland conservation and restoration alongside urban development.

Stormwater retrofit projects
The City completes four stormwater quality retrofit projects (Coventry Hills South, Fish Creek East, Marshall Springs, Votiers Flat) that help reduce total suspended solids loadings to the Bow River. These projects provide stormwater treatment to areas of the city that had little or no treatment before.


Low Impact Development subdivision checklist
The Low Impact Development subdivision checklist was released to the development industry. Its recommendations are based on background work and best management practices that developers can use when designing new subdivisions to ensure their applications are complete and aligned with low impact development best management practices (Checklist for: Absorbent Landscaping, Bioretention Areas, Bioswales, Green Roofs, Permeable Pavement, Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Capture).

Outline and master drainage plans
In order to meet runoff volume control targets identified in the Nose Creek Watershed Plan, planning level documents, such as outline plans and master drainage plans, are now required by The City of Calgary to address stormwater management and how the developments will meet the runoff targets.

Bow Basin Water Management Plan
The Bow Basin Water Management Plan is approved by City Council. This means changes to how the stormwater infrastructure is constructed, operated, monitored and managed.

Elbow River Basin Water Management Plan
Council approved a framework for protecting aquatic ecosystem, managing water quality and providing guiding stormwater management in the Elbow River watershed.

Stormwater retrofit projects
The City completes the Highway 22X stormwater quality retrofit project. It's the first of several planned stormwater quality retrofit projects that will provide stormwater treatment to areas of the city that had little or no treatment before.


Nose Creek Watershed Water Management Plan
TheNose Creek Watershed Management Plan is approved, whose goal is to protect riparian areas and improve water quality in Nose Creek.

The Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership is founded, and The City of Calgary is one of the founding partners.

Stormwater Source Control Practices Handbook
The City of Calgary finalizes theStormwater Source Control Practices Handbook for the development industry.


Total Loadings Management Plan
Alberta Environment requires per the Total Loadings Management Plan to limit total suspended solids to 53,000 kg per day during the clear flow period (Aug 1 - May 31).

Total suspended solids reduction
The City of Calgary sets the target to reduce Total Suspended Solid loading below 2005 levels by 2015 despite Calgary's continued growth.

Development review process
The City establishes the process for reviewing development proposals in the three priority watersheds (Nose Creek, Upper Elbow/Glenmore Reservoir and Western Headworks Canal). Developers are encouraged to incorporate source control practices in new developments. Adding the new requirements for stormwater management required proper design and review to ensure runoff targets will be met for these lands.

Drainage Service Charge
The previous two charges (Storm Sewer Service charge and Storm Sewer Operations Charge) are combined into one (Drainage Service Charge) on utility statements.


Major stormwater policy changes
Two reports (Report UE2005-62: Opportunities to Change Drainage Practices and UE2005-35: Stormwater Management Strategy) are presented to Council. These reports are critical in changing how stormwater is viewed and managed in Calgary with a long-term vision to protect the river and reduce the affects of drainage by incorporating more source control practices. They also set the requirement for annual Stormwater management reporting.

Drainage Bylaw introduced
City of CalgaryBylaw 37M2005 takes effect Sept. 1, 2005. This Bylaw oversees issues of drainage in conjunction with the Lot Grading Bylaw and the Community Standards Bylaw.


Bow River Basin Council
The Bow River Basin Council is designated by Alberta Environment as the Watershed Planning and Advisory Council for the Bow River basin in Alberta's Water for Life Strategy.

Lot Grading Bylaw introduced
City of CalgaryBylaw 32M2004 is created to ensure lot grading is constructed as designed; this bylaw was created to ensure proper surface drainage between public and private lands.

Drainage issues adding to Community Standards Bylaw
Community Standards Bylaw 5M2004 sections dealing with nuisance drainage issues between properties (direction of downspouts) were extracted from the current Drainage Bylaw and addressed in this Community Standards Bylaw.

Calgary's stormwater system becomes self-supporting
The storm drainage system became fully self-supporting through the addition of two monthly service charges on customer's bills (Storm Sewer Service Charge and the Storm Sewer Operations Charge).


Stormwater Management and Design Manual introduced
The City of Calgary Stormwater Management & Design Manual is originally released (Later updated and re-released in 2011).


Stormwater requirements established
Provincial requirement of all new planned and developed areas to include stormwater quality treatment.


Storm Drainage Upgrade Charge
City Council amends the Drainage Bylaw to establish a Storm Drainage Upgrade Change, which generates about $3 million a year for storm drainage improvement projects that will reduce flooding from high intensity rainfalls.


First retro-fitted dry pond built
Calgary constructs its first retro-fitted dry pond in Marlborough Park.


Improved stormwater drainage capacity
The designed capacity for storm drainage systems in new communities is increased to handle one-in-one-hundred-year rainfalls (the former standard was one-in-five-year rainfalls - in some of the older communities, the standard was one-in-two-year rainfalls).


First stormwater wetpond built
Calgary constructs its first stormwater wet pond at 68 Street and 17 Avenue SE.


Separation of stormwater and wastewater systems
The City of Calgary completes work to separate the storm and sanitary wastewater mains. The work on this project started in the 1950s, well ahead of other cities. The City of Calgary does not experience combine sewer oveflow events; however, a small number of storm drains have been connected to the wastewater system in areas without stormwater infrastructure under special circumstances, and do not add a significant volume to the system.


1920 - Work begins on separating stormwater and wastewater systems.
Calgary begins to construct separate storm and sanitary drainage events (moving away from combined systems).

1890 - First underground pipes built
The first underground drainage pipes are constructed and serve as a combined storm and sanitary wastewater system.