Climate hazards: Drought


Calgary has safe, reliable drinking water today, but looking ahead our finite water supply faces pressure from climate change. Calgary already has a dry climate, and climate change is expected to lead to longer, hotter and drier summers, meaning drought conditions may become more common and widespread. In addition to impacts on our drinking water supply and local agriculture, droughts can cause:

  • Negative health impacts to plants, wildlife, wetlands, forests, parks, open spaces, recreational facilities and private yards.
  • Drying out of forests and grasslands, increasing the risk of wildfires, which impact both local air quality and even water quality.
  • Increased pests and disease outbreaks (e.g. pine beetles) in trees and plants. Lack of water can stress trees, limiting their ability to react to these attacks.

The City website has more information about drought in Calgary.

Drought Vulnerability

All communities within Calgary are equally exposed to drought, but the outdoor landscaping of some properties may be more vulnerable the effects of a drought. Consider the following questions. The more questions you answer as yes, the more vulnerable your property may be.

Question Yes/No
Do you have trees, shrubs and flowerbeds that require large amounts of water?
Does your property have a large lawned area?

Does your household use large quantities of water?

(In Calgary, the average person uses about 7 cubic metres (m3) or 7,000 litres of water per month.}

Do you grow fruit, vegetables or herbs in your garden?
Are cracks visible in your interior and external walls, around the corners of walls and windows?

How to reduce drought impacts

To reduce drought impact to your property, create a water efficient YardSmart yard that is suited to Calgary’s climate and is more sustainable during drought conditions. Some of the most impactful actions include:

  • Choose drought tolerant annuals, perennials and grasses, and hardy trees and shrubs that thrive in Calgary.
  • Add a base of at least twenty centimeters (8 inches) of good quality soil for a healthy garden or lawn that retains more water and therefore requires less watering. Add mulch around trees and shrubs to retain moisture and keep an even soil temperature.
  • Capture and use free rainwater collected in a rain barrel(s) as a source of soft, warm water for your yard.
  • Direct runoff from downspouts and other hard areas into the landscaped areas of your property, such as rain gardens.
  • Help conserve water in the dry summer months by taking actions listed in the Summer Maintenance Checklist.

The City of Calgary’s Homeowner Water Guide also has useful information about water services in the City, where our drinking water comes from, and programs, tips and tools we offer for creating a water-efficient home and yard.

Disclaimer:  The content of the Climate Ready Home Guide is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as technical advice with respect to any particular building(s) or construction project(s). The Climate Ready Home Guide does not recommend or endorse specific products or companies. All products and measures should be installed by a professional contractor, according to manufacturer specifications and following all City Bylaws and codes.