Municipal Flood & Drought Resiliency

The water supply outlook for Alberta predicts longer, more frequent droughts and increases in flooding events. Municipalities that have implemented mitigation strategies will have a shorter recovery time and reduced impacts on residents and infrastructure than those who have not” (Miistakis Institute, 2018).

Extreme weather-related impacts will affect our water quality and supply provincially, regionally, and locally. Therefore, municipal flood and drought (FAD) planning is essential to preserve public services and minimize the adverse effects of water-related emergencies on public health and safety, economic activity, environmental resources, and recreation (Miistakis Institute, 2018).

 
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Effective mitigation plans remove the “crisis” from response efforts, reduce the hardship caused by water events, and raise public confidence in the actions taken to address the issue (Colorado Water Conservation Board, 2013). This crisis response is reactive, costly, and often only provides short-term solutions. A proactive risk management approach prepares for and mitigates short- and long-term impacts and vulnerability to extreme weather events (Government of Alberta, 2016).

The Government of Alberta (GoA) has highlighted climate change, specific to extreme weather events and thus, flood and drought resiliency, as a priority for municipalities. This is an important direction from the Province to get municipalities thinking about, and planning for, sustainability and resiliency within their communities. The GoA has also introduced the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program (WRRP) in an effort to identify watershed protection as a priority.

Restoring Alberta’s natural flood and drought defences is a critical part of our government’s plan to better protect families, businesses and our economy from increasingly severe natural disasters. Improving the capacity of our natural landscapes to store water through measures like wetland and riverbank restoration is an added line of defence as we invest in major flood control infrastructure” (Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks).

Although the province is planning for FAD at a regional scale, local level action is still required to achieve successful mitigation (Miistakis Institute, 2018). Municipally-owned infrastructure such as buildings, roads, bridges, etc. are generally sensitive to gradual changes in temperature and precipitation patterns and extreme weather events can easily overwhelm the capacity of infrastructure (Government of Alberta, 2018).

 
 
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Luckily, there are some valuable resources available (and more being developed) for municipalities to become more FAD resilient, however, not all municipalities have the skill or capacity for such a large undertaking. This work will require local Alberta Engineering firms to step up and be able to provide this current, high priority, necessary service. As an innovative Alberta-based Engineering firm, MAGNA realizes that expertise in FAD resiliency will help us retain our current client base and attract new clients.

MAGNA is keen to help municipalities, big and small, throughout Alberta become more FAD resilient. If that's something that is important to you too, let's chat!⠀

Jessica Letizia