Current Projects

A Review of flood risk management in Alberta

Seth Bryant and Dr. Evan Davies PI), Civil and Environmental Engineering

Since the 1970s, the number of significant floods in Canada per year has averaged 5 to 6 (Buttle et al., 2016), and the Minister of Public Safety recently called “the rising cost of natural disasters and financial burden on Ottawa the country’s biggest public safety risk” (cf. Simonovic 2014). Canadian government spending on disaster relief, of which flood victims are the largest recipient, has quadrupled in the past 40 years and continues to rise (Thistlethwaite 2016).  Yet, despite these efforts, the economic damage caused by flooding has continued to rise in the same period (Buttle et al. 2016). This demonstrates that Canada, like much of the developed world, is in need of more intelligent flood management.

Alberta is currently in the process of recovering from the costliest disaster in Canadian history, the flood of 2013 (Pomeroy et al. 2016).  The Government and affected communities are likely to follow a traditional approach to flood management in their recovery efforts, since recent remediation plans include construction of floodwalls and subsidization rebuilding in the floodplains of High River and Fort McMurray (Town of High River 2016; Snowdon 2016).  However, this type of approach may increase risk in the long run (Filatova 2014).

Fortunately, there are alternative approaches to flood management.  Indeed, the 2013 floods provide an opportunity for change through funding of new approaches for flood risk management and citizen engagement that emphasize education, to improve engagement with top-down flood management, and individual action, to reduce future losses (Simonovic 2014).  The primary goal of this research is to review both the current approach to flood risk management in Alberta and alternative approaches that may reduce future flood losses.  To meet these objectives, we will review literature concerning,

 1. The methods and tools currently used to assess flood risk in Alberta,

2. Flood risk mitigation measures employed in Canada and their reported effectiveness, and

3. Future changes in flood risk from land use, river management and climate change. 

Our review focuses particularly on methods and tools for flood loss assessments, available mitigation measures suitable for Alberta, and changes in flooding with climate change.  It will provide background information useful in addressing funding calls related to flooding and flood management.  

 In particular, we note that efforts to determine indirect and intangible losses from flooding, as well assessing communication tools, conducting public surveys, and producing economic evaluations may be of interest to Network members.

Contact details: 780) 492-5134; email edavies1@ualberta.ca

Predicting Alberta’s Water Future (PAWF)

As part of the ‘Predicting Alberta’s Water Future (PAWF)’ project at the University of Alberta, Dr. Faramarzi as the lead investigator and Dr. Goss as the Principal Investigator in collaboration with other experts from Canada and around the world, have developed a dynamic water model of Alberta. The model simulates water resource components including blue water (surface water and deep aquifer recharge), green water (i.e., actual evapotransiration and soil moisture), and other hydrological components in 2255 subbasins at monthly time step in Alberta under the past and future climate scenarios. The three year (2014-2017) project funded by Alberta Innovates Energy and Environment Solutions (AIEES) provides a strong basis for assesings water related risks and opportunities to various water use sectors in Alberta and to the economy of the province. The results of the water model will be used to accomplish at least the following three inter-related large projects funded by other institutes in Alberta:

1.     Predicting water related risks and opportunities for Alberta’s beef industry (3 years, 2016-2018, funded by Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency)

2.     Predicting risks and opportunities for ecosystem water demand under future climate change and variabilities (3 years, 2016-2018, funded by Alberta Biodiversity and Monitoring Institute)

3.     Adaptation to Changing Water in Alberta (ACWA) (3 years, 2017-2019, funded by Alberta Innovates Energy and Environment Solutions )

The project seeks to convey to stakeholders the risks and opportunities to their future growth scenarios as a result of changes in future local water availabilities.  Long-term integrated water management requires all sectors of the economy: agriculture, ecosystem services, municipal, industrial and energy (both oil and gas and hydroelectric) to collaborate to ensure there is enough water, when we need it, to ensure a strong economy.

Contact details: Tel: 780 492 5196; Email: faramarz@ualberta.ca

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Email: intsus@ualberta.ca

University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB,
CANADA

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