Managing Calgary’s Water Supply – a fine balancing act!


Calgary's water comes from the Bow and Elbow rivers
Calgary’s water comes from the Bow and Elbow rivers

This summer, Calgarians have had their share of fluctuating weather conditions. From hot sunny days, to thunderstorms, hail and even tornado watches, Mother Nature has been keeping Calgarians on their toes, eyes to the sky.

Around us, it is hard to ignore the effects the weather has had – agricultural devastation declared in some Alberta communities, wildfires in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as recent water restrictions in British Columbia. How is Calgary faring and what is The City is doing to ensure Calgary has an ongoing, plentiful water supply to mitigate the impact of weather-related challenges?

The City of Calgary does many things all year long to protect and provide our clean and safe water. Calgary, like many other cities and towns in Alberta, gets its water from the Bow and Elbow rivers. In recognizing there are a number of stakeholders all with a need for access to the water the rivers provide, we work cooperatively with our provincial partners and industry to ensure that needs are balanced and that no one user is putting excess pressure on this water supply.

Black-eyed Susans are a beautiful YardSmart, low water perennial
Black-eyed Susans are a beautiful YardSmart, low water perennial

As The City’s population grows, so does our need to ensure safe and reliable fresh water is available for citizens. In anticipation of Calgary’s rapid growth, The City committed to reduce our water consumption (in 2002) by 30 per cent over 30 years. Despite record-breaking population growth, we are very pleased to report that per capita household water consumption is in fact less than levels in 2003. This accomplishment can be attributed back to both responsible water use by Calgarians and The City.

We are also continuously monitoring water withdrawals from the river, improving the state of our water and waste-water infrastructure and looking for new and innovative ways to sustain this valuable, natural resource.

“The approach The City takes is one of total watershed management; a complex process that looks at both local needs and the needs of those outside our municipal boundaries”, says Cheryl Harmsworth, manager of Watershed Planning. “This is a tremendous responsibility for The City because there are serious social and environmental considerations that we are obliged to honour.”

We all need to do our part and to be aware of how we use this precious resource, and by working together can we ensure safe and abundant clean water now and for future generations.

How you can help conserve Calgary’s water supply

YardSmart plants need minimal water
YardSmart plants need minimal water
  • Use high efficiency fixtures in your home
  • Have a YardSmart yard with plants that need minimal water
  • Use rain barrels to collect water to use in your yard
  • Don’t over-water your grass – lawns only need one inch of water per week, including rainfall
  • Don’t wash your car on your driveway
  • Don’t wash dirt and debris into the storm-water catch basins

Remember, even the smallest action makes a difference. Together, we can protect Calgary’s water.