Sandbagging and other temporary barriers
The City of Calgary’s priority when planning for and responding to flooding is public safety and protecting critical infrastructure, vital community services, the environment and the economy.
The City cannot prevent or mitigate all flood risk to all private properties. Property owners remain responsible for protecting their property.
Temporary barriers such as sandbags or flood tubes can be used to help protect personal property. They should only be considered in the short-term until permanent measures can be implemented.
Using flood barriers
Tips for using temporary flood barriers
- Flood warning times for Calgary's rivers can be less than 12 hours which may not allow enough time to implement temporary measures.
- Temporary barriers only prevent overland flooding - they do not prevent groundwater seepage.
- If an evacuation order is issued, you are required to leave your property regardless of the use of temporary barriers.
- Your plan for using temporary barriers should be in place prior to flood season, and you should practice proper installation and dismantling techniques.
- To ensure measures do not negatively impact neighbouring properties. Citizens cannot block roads or place temporary measures on public property.
- If you have questions contact 311 for more information.
Placing temporary flooding barriers
You need to consider the planning, deployment, removal and disposal of any temporary measures. Temporary measures can easily create challenges such as storm water drainage, access and egress difficulties, and obstruction of river flow.
Temporary and permanent flood barriers must be set back at least six metres from the edge of the floodway on a private 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 allow water flow and minimize objects that may obstruct the floodway.
If you live next to the Bow or Elbow rivers, you can check The City of Calgary's flood maps to see the location of the floodway boundary on your property.
Determining what types of flooding barriers to use
We do not provide sandbags, nor instruct or train property owners in the proper installation, use or dismantling of temporary barriers.
All questions regarding risks and the proper operation, installation, removal or dismantling of temporary measures should be directed to your supplier:
- 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 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?
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 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.
If you are considering water-filled flood tubes, note of the following factors:
- The stability of the tubes
- The tube's effectiveness
- Potential impacts on neighbouring properties
- Obstruction of river flows
- Property access
- Lot drainage
- Proper drainage and treatment of the water in the tubes
- Inadvertent property damage and personal safety
You should seek the advice of professionals and know your risk when using temporary flood barriers.
The City of Calgary 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, with a one metre diameter tube taking approximately 10 hours. Early setup may be required.
Property owners also need to consider how the flood tubes will be emptied after use to prevent impacting your home, your property or your neighbours' properties.
Water cannot be emptied into the river or storm water system without being properly treated to remove chlorine. For more information, visit the water disposal permit requirements section in Erosion and Sediment Control.