Calgary's Flood Resilience Plan
Building resilience to flooding is one of our top priorities. Calgary’s flood resilience plan uses a three-layered approach where each element works together to reduce our flood risk and make Calgary more resilient.
Upstream flood protection on the Bow and Elbow Rivers:
Reservoirs will increase water storage and help slow larger flows from the mountains that can cause river floods.
Community-level flood protection:
Permanent flood mitigation infrastructure, like flood barriers, will better protect vulnerable communities from smaller floods and work with future upstream reservoirs to provide greater protection.
Property-level flood protection:
Changes to building regulations and guidelines, limiting types of development in flood-prone areas and public education will make people, homes and communities more flood resilient.
To learn more about how the plan was created, see Developing Calgary's Flood Resilience Plan.
Elbow River Mitigation
Upstream flood protection
Springbank Reservoir (SR1)
This Government of Alberta project, located about 18 km upstream of Calgary, is a “dry reservoir” that only holds water during floods. During a flood, some water would be diverted from the Elbow River into SR1. The water would be temporarily stored and released slowly back into the Elbow River towards Calgary. This project will reduce flood risk by 80% on the Elbow River.
This project is in the regulatory approval process. It has funding commitments from the Government of Alberta and the federal government, which announced $168M in funding for the project in 2019. Roughly 25 per cent of the land has been acquired to build SR1. Once final regulatory and budget approvals are in place, the province can begin construction. It’s anticipated that the reservoir will be able to protect to a 1:100 flood level within two years of starting construction, and fully complete the year after. Once complete, together with the higher gates at the Glenmore Dam, SR1 will provide Elbow River communities with flood protection from a 2013-size flood, reducing flood damages by over $3B through the next century.
Community-level flood protection
Glenmore Dam Gates
By installing new, higher gates at the Glenmore Dam, we’ve doubled the water storage capacity, which enables us to better control high river flows in the spring on the Elbow River.
Until the Springbank Reservoir is completed upstream, the Glenmore Dam gates alone will be able to manage moderate level flooding (equivalent to a 1:30 flood, or bigger than the 2005 flood).
Bow River Mitigation
Upstream flood protection
New upstream reservoir on the Bow River
This Government of Alberta project on the Bow River would capture more water from large floods. It could also provide an additional source of water in the face of climate uncertainty and risk of drought.
The Province is examining three storage options for a reservoir on the Bow River. If constructed, the reservoir would be a major component in flood mitigation and water supply for Calgary.
Status: Results from this feasibility study are anticipated in 2023. We expect to find out which site (if any) is recommended and whether the Government of Alberta should move forward with further study of the recommended site and the estimated storage capacity for both flood and drought mitigation. It will also provide some insights on the potential timing of completion for an upstream reservoir (expected to be in the range of at least 12-15 years).
Modified operations at TransAlta’s Ghost Reservoir
This agreement between the Government of Alberta and TransAlta has the Ghost Reservoir kept low during flood season to help control the flow of water through Calgary and significantly reduces potential flood damages in Calgary.
Status: The agreement to modify operations at Ghost Reservoir for flood mitigation purposes is in place until 2026.
Community-level flood protection
Permanent flood barriers
The foothills west of Calgary make it unlikely that a large enough reservoir could be built to completely slow the river flow of a 2013- level flood without causing overland flooding in some Bow River communities.
Permanent flood barriers in flood-prone areas would prevent overland flood water from damaging communities, roads and utilities, including:
- West Eau Claire (from the Peace Bridge to Eau Claire Plaza)
- Downtown (from Jaipur Bridge to the Reconciliation Bridge)
- Heritage Drive
- Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant
Until a new upstream reservoir is built on the Bow River, community flood barriers would protect the communities from smaller floods that are more likely to happen.
Status: Work on the individual flood barrier projects are in various stages of design, construction and community engagement.
Other mitigation projects: In addition, stormwater and sanitary system improvements, gravel bar removals and bridge improvements have improved overall flood resiliency in Calgary.
Flood mitigation projects in Calgary
Since the 2013 flood, with support from the Alberta government over $150 million has been invested in flood mitigation and resilience projects throughout Calgary.
Mitigation work that is already complete or is underway has reduced Calgary’s flood risk by about 50 per cent and our flood damages by $80 million every year.
See a list of some of the projects we’ve been working on below, or check out our interactive flood project map.
|Centre St Bridge: flood barrier||Completed|
|Heritage Dr S.E.: flood barrier||Completed|
|West Eau Claire: flood barrier||Completed|
|Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP): flood barrier||2023|
|Sunnyside flood barrier||2023|
|Downtown flood barrier||2023|
|Bowness flood barrier||Feasibility study underway|
|Pumpstation #1 (New Sunnyside Storm Lift Station)||Completed|
|Pumpstation #2 (Sunnyside Storm Lift Station Improvement)||Completed|
|Upper Plateau Separation||2022|
|Stormwater outfall improvements (15 locations)||2022|
|Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant WWTP: outfalls and utility relocation||Completed|
|Flood Recovery Erosion Control Program||Complete|
|Downstream of Centre Street Gravel Bar Modification||2021|
|Mission island: Elbow River gravel bar||Completed|
|Crowchild Trail NW: Bow River gravel bar||2022|
|Scollen Bridge: Elbow River gravel bar||2022|
|Roxboro Sanitary Liftstation||Complete|
|Sunnyside Sanitary Liftstation||Complete|
|Municipal Complex: drainage improvements||Complete|
|Zoo flood mitigation||Complete|
Property level flood protection
Property-level and flood policy measures, such as changes to building regulations, flood proofing and limiting types of development in flood prone areas are an important part of making Calgary’s communities more flood resilient.
Since 2013, changes to the Municipal Development Plan and Land Use Bylaw provide guidance and better regulate development within the Flood Hazard Area.
We’re currently exploring potential changes to land use and building regulations where there is heightened flood risk. This includes examining restriction of land uses and occupancy types in the floodplain, such as care facilities and schools.
Citizens have an important role to play in flood resiliency. Being prepared for potential floods, incorporating flood protection measures for your property and following building regulations for flood zones will increase resiliency and decrease the likelihood of damage during the next flood.