Mountain snowpack is high, but river flooding to depend on rainfall
Above average snowpack levels up in the mountains means The City of Calgary is keeping a close watch on spring and summer weather to determine flood risk, but the real risk will depend on how the spring rains unfold over the next two months.
“Heavy rainfalls west of Calgary are more so the trigger for river flooding,” says Sandy Davis, Team Lead of River Engineering. “Over the next couple of months, we’ll be monitoring the rivers 24/7, keeping an eye on any large rain systems that can cause river flooding, while closely watching the snowpack in the mountains as it starts to melt.”
In preparation for the spring runoff, the water levels in the Glenmore Reservoir and Ghost Reservoir have been lowered to create more room for potential flood water, and operations crews have completed testing infrastructure like river outfalls and lift stations, while also stockpiling materials for temporary barriers, if needed.
In addition to seasonal preparations, in nearly 10 years since the 2013 flood, Calgary is in a better position to be protected from flooding thanks to significant infrastructure investments, reducing Calgary’s flood risk by 55 per cent and potential flood damages by $90 million every year.
This year, the downtown flood barrier is in place, creating a continuous flood barrier from the Peace Bridge to the Reconciliation Bridge, helping protect the safety of Calgarians and critical infrastructure in Downtown, Chinatown, East Village and Eau Claire communities. Construction has also begun on the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1) west of the city.
“Once complete, SR1 is a complete game changer for Calgary, protecting thousands of residents that live and work along the Elbow River and downtown Calgary from a 2013-size flood,” says Davis. “Working with the higher gates at the Glenmore Dam, this infrastructure will reduce damages by over $3 billion through the next century, safeguard Calgary’s downtown, the region’s economic engine, protect critical public infrastructure like roads and CTrain lines and vital services like our drinking water and wastewater treatment plants that we all depend on.”
Along the Bow River, The Province is continuing to assess the feasibility of three potential sites for a new reservoir on the Bow River, with a recommendation expected in 2023.
As The City prepares for high river flow season, which is from May 15 to July 15, they are reminding Calgarians that flooding can’t be prevented entirely, so it’s important to take a few steps to be ready and exercise caution around riverbanks as the fast-moving water can cause erosion and destabilization.
- Understand. Use our online interactive flood maps to know your home and community’s risk.
- Prepare. Take steps to reduce flood damage, keep your loved ones safe and be prepared if you need to evacuate quickly.
- Stay informed. River conditions can change quickly and with little warning. Visit calgary.ca/floodinfo for a quick snapshot of daily river conditions, sign up for alerts to stay informed and pay attention to any boating advisories issued by The City.
The City has information available to help Calgarians prepare. Citizens can learn more at calgary.ca/floodinfo