Alberta Considers Giving More Room to the River

In response to the 2013 floods in Alberta, the Canadian provincial government along with municipalities, nongovernmental organizations, and others have identified, studied, and implemented various solutions for the Bow River Basin.

Although the focus was primarily on large-scale gray infrastructure, the province is now piloting a new solution being used in the Netherlands to manage flooding in the Rhine River branches. The basic premise of the Dutch program, Room for the River, is to manage higher water levels by giving the river more space. Measures are underway in 30 locations along the Rhine and are expected to be complete in 2015, at which point the river should be able to discharge 16,000 m3 (4.2 million gal) per second without flooding.

The Alberta pilot, implemented in fall of 2014, is helping the province examine the extent to which Room for the River concepts can be adapted and applied to reduce flood vulnerability and improve environmental quality of the Bow and Elbow rivers. The program is helping Alberta put some of the focus back on natural solutions, such as widening riverbanks, retaining headwater wetlands, preventing future floodplain development, and revisiting property buyouts.

Read more about the pilot in this report, and check out this video about the Dutch program, Room for the River.

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