Bow River Reservoir Options

The province is assessing options to mitigate the impacts of both flood and drought on the Bow River.

Bow River Reservoir Options engagement

Learn more about the engagement process for the Bow River Reservoir Options Initiative.

Learn more about the engagement


The Alberta government continues to explore options to build additional flood and drought storage capacity on the Bow River to reduce the impacts of severe weather events on Albertans and the economy.

A May 2017 report by the Bow River Working Group included a recommendation to complete conceptual assessments of 3 major reservoir options on the Bow River, upstream of Calgary. 

The Alberta government's Bow River Reservoir Options initiative builds on those recommendations, beginning with the Phase 1 Conceptual Assessment that concluded spring 2020, and currently in the Phase 2 Feasibility Study.

Study corridor map

The map below shows the conceptual locations of the 3 reservoir options. Details regarding the dam locations and reservoir extents are subject to change as additional data and analysis is completed.

Figure 1. Selected locations and extents of reservoir options

Map of Bow River reservoir options: Morley, Relocated Ghost Dam and Glenbow East.

View map in PDF

Project timeline

The potential selection and implementation of a reservoir option on the Bow River upstream of Calgary is being approached in four phases:

  • Phase 1: Conceptual Assessment (completed in spring 2020)
  • Phase 2: Feasibility Study (spring 2020 to winter [December] 2024)
  • Phase 3: Engineering and Regulatory Approval Process
  • Phase 4: Procurement, Construction and Commissioning

The figure below shows the overall project’s potential timeline. The information collected during each phase will help inform the Government of Alberta’s decision on whether to proceed to the next phase.

Figure 2. Initiative timeline, updated April 2024

Image of the Graphic timeline

View timeline in PDF

Phase 2: Feasibility Study (current)

  • Overview

    In spring 2021, Environment and Protected Areas (then Environment and Parks) began engagement and field studies for Phase 2 of the Bow River Reservoir Options initiative, the Feasibility Study.

    The Feasibility Study continues to examine the flood and drought mitigation reservoir options identified in the Conceptual Assessment, with a focus on determining the technical feasibility of the 2 options as well as identifying the potential impacts and associated benefits, implementation requirements and costs of each reservoir option. Completion of the study is scheduled for December 2024.

    The Bow River Reservoir Options initiative looks at 2 reservoir options in the Bow River basin, upstream of Calgary:

    • Relocated Ghost Dam: An expansion of the existing Ghost Reservoir
    • Glenbow East: A new reservoir between Cochrane and the Bearspaw Dam at the western edge of Calgary
  • Interactive online tool and presentation

    An interactive tool was created during the conceptual assessment to allow you to explore the study maps, view drone videos and see photos of existing conditions along stretches of the Bow River. Computer-generated animations of the Glenbow East and Relocated Ghost Dam options provide additional dam and reservoir conceptual information.

    A YouTube video is also available: Bow River Reservoir Options Conceptual Assessment. It provides an overview of the Relocated Ghost Dam and Glenbow East options using drone imagery and computer-generated animations from the interactive online tool.

  • Bow River Working Group

    The Bow River Working Group has supported sustainable water management in the Bow River Basin over the last decade. The mandate of this advisory group is to provide feedback and suggestions to the Alberta government on the feasibility of the reservoir options identified in the conceptual assessment with the aim to reduce future flood damage, mitigate drought, thereby improving the reliability of water supply in the Bow River basin.

    The Bow River Working Group includes members from:

    • municipalities along the Bow River, including the City of Calgary and Rocky View County
    • First Nations
    • industry, including TransAlta
    • irrigation districts
    • Bow River Basin Council
    • environmental organizations
    • provincial and federal government departments

    To date, the Bow River Working Group has been an important part of the project, and it will continue to be involved through the Feasibility Study.

  • What is next

    The Feasibility Study continues to explore 2 flood and drought mitigation options identified in the conceptual assessment.

    The aim is to assess technical feasibility, while carefully considering a variety of the following elements:

    • cultural
    • economic
    • engineering
    • environmental
    • social
    • traditional land use

    Study findings will help the Government of Alberta decide if there is an option that should proceed to the next phase, the Engineering and Regulatory Approval Process.

    The Feasibility Study started in spring 2020 and is expected to conclude by December 2024. For each option, the study will:

    • examine its technical feasibility
    • analyze its effectiveness in mitigating flood and drought risk, while also providing water management flexibility
    • assess the potential impacts on communities, the environment and infrastructure
    • quantify the costs and potential benefits
    • include additional engagement opportunities for Indigenous groups, stakeholders and the public

    The Alberta government is working with WSP E&I Canada Limited to complete the feasibility study.

  • Fieldwork and land access

    As part of the feasibility study, the consultants will be carrying out fieldwork to learn more about the potential dam sites and the surrounding areas.

    The fieldwork will include:

    • Geological (visual mapping), geotechnical (drilling boreholes) and geophysical (ground-based surveys) work to better understand the soil and bedrock conditions at the dam sites and surrounding lands.
    • Environmental field studies of the reservoir areas and surrounding lands to evaluate the existing vegetation, wetlands, wildlife, fish, soils, groundwater and cultural and historical resources.

    The geological and geotechnical information will help the study team evaluate the technical feasibility of constructing a dam at any of the potential locations and, if so, how to design the dam. The environmental data gathered will help us better understand the existing environmental conditions around each potential site, and the potential impacts of building a dam and reservoir.

    To complete the fieldwork, study team members will need to access the potential project sites, as well as some of the surrounding lands.

    If your property is a potential location for field studies, you will be contacted and asked for permission to access your property. A field study team member will provide further information and explain:

    • the type of studies that will be completed on your property
    • the timing and scheduling of the work
    • any safety concerns

    Field work has been completed for the 2 options.

    Landowner information

    Information for landowners is posted on our engagement page.

    No studies will be undertaken on any property without proper permissions.

  • Indigenous and stakeholder engagement

    The Feasibility Study engagement process will continue to build on the engagement completed in the Conceptual Assessment.

    A complete summary of the engagement activities and feedback received during the Conceptual Assessment can be found in Appendix F of the Bow River Reservoir Options - Phase 1: Conceptual Assessment – Main Report.

    Information documents shared in the assessment, including the project brochure and information session poster boards, can be found at the archived Conceptual Assessment engagement page.

    A summary of the engagement activities and feedback received during the feasibility study Round 1 engagement can be found in the What we Heard Stakeholder Phase 2 Round 1 Engagement Report (April 2020 - March 2023).

    Implementation of any of the options may impact:

    • communities
    • the environment
    • homes and/or infrastructure
    • parks

    Engagement will inform the Feasibility Study design and option evaluation process so the objectives of flood and drought management are met, while minimizing the identified impacts as much as possible. As an example, feedback about potential effects on communities is informing the selection of the maximum reservoir water level for each option.

    The Feasibility Study team recognizes the need to maximize the potential social, environmental and recreational benefits associated with the development of any option. Much of the information about potential benefits comes from Indigenous communities and organizations, public and stakeholders.

    Feasibility Study engagement opportunities will be announced as they are planned, through emails and our online engagement portal.

Phase 1: Conceptual Assessment

  • What we learned

    A Conceptual Assessment was completed for the 3 reservoir options on the Bow River upstream of Calgary:

    • Morley: A new reservoir between Seebe and Morley, on Stoney Nakoda Nations Reserve land
    • Relocated Ghost Dam: An expansion of the existing Ghost Reservoir
    • Glenbow East: A new reservoir between Cochrane and the Bearspaw Dam at the western edge of Calgary

    The assessment began in November 2018 and concluded spring 2020. This assessment, primarily a desktop study based on existing information, considered 3 reservoir options at a high level of conceptual design. High quality drone footage of existing conditions along the Ghost and Glenbow stretches of the river was also collected and used in the assessment.

    Information gathered from Indigenous communities and organizations, stakeholders and the public on social, environmental and cultural considerations, traditional land use and engineering and economic information was used to help further inform the assessment outcomes.

  • Assessment findings

    Findings confirmed the Conceptual Assessment objective that it is possible to increase flood and drought storage at all 3 reservoir option sites. No comparisons between the 3 reservoir options were made during the assessment.

  • Conceptual Assessment Report

    The Conceptual Assessment Report was submitted to the Alberta government in spring 2020.

Additional information


Connect with the Bow River Reservoir Options project team:

Toll free: 310-3773
Email: [email protected]

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