Spring Flood and Drought Preparations

Flood Preparedness


During the spring months, many Calgarians’ attention turns to the upcoming flood season. I would like to provide an update on the seasonal conditions and actions that the City is taking to be prepared. 

Since the 2013 flood, the City has taken big steps that have reduced Calgary’s risk of flooding by 55 per cent. But flooding can still happen quickly and with little or no warning, so it’s important you’re well prepared.

Understand:
Know your flood risk. Look up your address on our online flood map to see if you’re at risk.

Be prepared: Take steps to reduce flood damage to your home and ensure your family knows what to do if a flood happens.

We have all seen firsthand that Calgary is vulnerable to flooding and drought, and with a changing climate, these risks only increase. It’s also possible to have a year with a healthy snowpack and above average spring run-off, followed by sustained dry conditions that can have an impact on our water supply late in the summer. We need to be prepared for flooding and drought and ensure our operations are well-positioned to respond.

Please check out the river conditions dial at calgary.ca/floodinfo, which provides Calgarians with a quick snapshot of daily river conditions during flood season (May 15 – July 15). Please also check out the drought conditions dial at calgary.ca/droughtinfo to understand the current conditions in Calgary.

Flooding
This spring, we’re seeing high snowpack up in the mountains with Environment and Climate Change Canada’s forecasting below average spring temperatures and average to below average precipitation heading into summer.

While a melting snowpack will increase river flows, it alone does not cause river flooding in Calgary. Heavy, multi-day rainfalls upstream of the city are the main cause of river flooding and can account for 80 per cent or more of the river flow during a flood.

These large rainfalls typically happen from mid-May to mid-July and can be challenging to predict in the mountain areas where we may only have 24 hours or less to confirm. That’s why it’s important that Calgarians are ready for flooding anytime during the season, possibly on short notice.

Preparations Underway
Flood preparation is a top priority, and we have a dedicated team monitoring river conditions, along with the resources and plans in place to quickly respond.

Through our year-round monitoring and forecasting program, we’re keeping a close eye on weather and river conditions. We are already communicating with reservoir operators and water managers in the region, such as Alberta Environment and Parks, TransAlta, and internally with our colleagues at the Glenmore Dam, to coordinate monitoring, potential response and management of reservoir levels. With the installation of higher gates at the Glenmore Dam, we’re in a much better position to manage small and moderate floods on the Elbow River.

Our teams have stockpiled materials for riverbank protection and temporary barriers, will be completing annual testing and preparation of our stormwater infrastructure and have begun training exercises to ensure we are ready to quickly respond to any emergency.

Drought
This year, we’re entering the growing season with less moisture than normal in the ground. Rainfall in the Calgary region was 15 to 40 per cent below average in winter 2021/22 and ground moisture levels in the region are between 20 to 40 per cent below normal.

Snowpack is an essential part of our water supply. While we’re seeing a high snowpack in the mountains, refilling our reservoirs and replenishing the ground moisture in the Calgary area will depend on how early and how quickly the snow melts along with how much rainfall we receive in late spring.

We will continue to closely monitor these conditions and if dry conditions persist that put stress on our water supply, we’re prepared to respond so that we continue to have enough water for our most essential needs. This includes plans to help reduce water usage based on the severity of a drought. 

If you have any questions about Calgary’s flood or drought preparations, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Categories: Flood and Drought, General, Tips

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