Drought

What are the current conditions?

Updated September 2022

Despite prolonged above-average temperatures and little precipitation, Calgary is not currently experiencing drought conditions. Combined Bow and Elbow River flows are at normal levels. Conditions earlier this year, including a higher-than-normal snowpack and above-average rainfall in June, have allowed for Glenmore Reservoir to fill to above normal levels, providing a healthy supply heading into late summer.

However, if high temperatures and low precipitation conditions continue we may see a strain on our water supply. We’ll continue to closely monitor forecasts, our water supply and demand, and other local indicators. We’re prepared to respond to ensure we have enough water to meet our essential needs, including staged plans to help reduce water usage based on drought severity.

What you can do

Did you know, outdoor watering can increase a home’s water use by up to 50 per cent (on average 20-30 per cent) in the summer months, due to watering grass and gardens.

  • You can help conserve water by preparing your yard for hot and dry weather and watering efficiently to put less strain on the rivers and treatment plants.
  • Leave the grass 2-3 inches high and add mulch to garden beds to reduce evaporation.
  • Water in the early morning – before 7 a.m. or later in the evening.
  • Watering plants with a soaker hose, drip irrigation or by hand directs water to a plant’s roots and helps avoid losing water to evaporation.
  • Capture free rainwater in a rain barrel and use it for the garden.

Get more tips creating a water efficient YardSmart yard that’s suited to Calgary’s climate and find out the most effective ways to reduce the impacts of a drought to your property. 

Leave the grass 2-3 inches high and add mulch to garden beds to reduce evaporation.

Water in the early morning – before 7 a.m. or later in the evening.

Watering plants with a soaker hose, drip irrigation or by hand directs water to a plant’s roots and helps avoid losing water to evaporation.

Capture free rainwater in a rain barrel and use it for the garden.

Get more tips creating a water efficient YardSmart yard that’s suited to Calgary’s climate and find out the most effective ways to reduce the impacts of a drought to your property. 

Is there a drought in Calgary?

Please refer to the above dial to understand the current conditions in Calgary and our response plan.


We’re preparing now, so we’re ready for the future

We’re developing a Drought Resilience Plan that will proactively adapt Calgary’s water needs so we have enough water for Calgarians now and into the future. In spring 2022, we engaged with Calgarians city-wide to understand their perspectives and ideas on a variety of strategies that would help our homes, businesses and park spaces use less water outdoors. We’re using this feedback, along with other stakeholders, to shape and refine the strategies that will be presented to Council for approval in spring 2023.

Understanding droughts in Calgary

Calgary is a dry climate, but because of our proximity to the mountains we can experience unpredictable swings in the weather from heavy rains to many weeks of dry temperatures and little rain.

A drought is when there is less water available over a large physical area for a long period of time. It happens when precipitation (i.e. rain/snow), river flow and ground water are below average levels.

Key facts

  • Unlike floods, which can happen very quickly, droughts develop slowly over time.
  • Calgary is most at risk of experiencing a drought from mid-July to the end of September.
  • A drought can last anywhere from weeks, to months and can evolve into multi-year droughts if the region is consistently not getting enough moisture.

Doing our part

Building resiliency to flood and drought is a top priority for The City as climate modelling tells us that Calgary will experience more severe and frequent extreme weather events such as flooding and droughts.

Monitoring

We monitor our watershed conditions year-round and increase monitoring from mid-May to mid-September where there is an increased risk of flooding and drought.

In addition to using the Canadian Drought Monitor, we look at many local indicators to help us predict if a drought may happen and how severe it could become. Learn more about how The City keeps an eye on our watershed.

Taking action

The information we collect through our monitoring helps us carefully manage water storage at the Glenmore Reservoir and other City-owned infrastructure. The City also collaborates with Alberta Environment and Parks, and partners such as TransAlta and downstream Irrigation Districts to manage water supply and demand along the Bow River.

During the onset of a drought, City services will also reduce their water use where and when it is safe to do so. This includes:

City parks

  • Outdoor decorative fountains will run on reduced schedules or turned off completely;
  • We will reduce outdoor watering of flowers, turf in parks (where possible) and sports fields. 
  • Watering of newly planted trees or turf will continue at a reduced rate.

City vehicles

  • Exterior washing of City vehicles and buses will be limited to health and safety considerations.

City buildings

  • Reduce outdoor watering at City-owned and operated buildings.

If drought conditions persist and a significant supply shortage exists, The City would implement one of the four stages of outdoor water restrictions to further reduce water demand.

Outdoor water restrictions four-stage response plan

Planning for the future

Our long term water supply and efficiency plans factor in the effects of a drought. We’re also taking steps to update our Drought Resilience Plan that will include short term actions to be better prepared for a drought and long term strategies to strengthen Calgary’s resilience to drought.

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