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Province, TransAlta reach agreement to protect Calgary and other Bow River Communities from flood and drought

A multi-year agreement with TransAlta will provide flood protection to Calgary, reduce the impacts of drought, and help communities adapt to a changing climate.

The five-year agreement with TransAlta allows the province to modify operations at Ghost Reservoir for flood mitigation purposes from May 16 to July 7 each year, and adjust reservoir levels at three Kananaskis-area reservoirs year-round to supplement flows on the Bow River during dry periods, or provide additional flood storage.

“Both flood and drought are serious concerns in southern Alberta. This agreement provides more storage capacity and greater flexibility to help protect communities along the Bow River from the potentially devastating effects of flood and drought, and the uncertainties of a changing climate.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

“This is a valuable agreement that will help protect Calgarians who live and work along the Bow River. Collaborative management of the Ghost Reservoir is a key part of a suite of flood mitigation projects required along the Bow River, and I’m pleased we’re moving forward today. This is not only an important investment in the protection of people and the environment, it’s an investment in the resilience of our economy through the protection of downtown Calgary.”

Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary

“This is a positive step towards collaborative water management in the Bow River basin. Successful implementation hinges on the flexibility and responsiveness of water managers to flood and drought conditions, and provides the opportunity for all of us to learn by doing.”

Kim Sturgess, Chief Executive Officer, Alberta WaterSMART

“The water users of the Western Irrigation District are pleased to see that the province is balancing flood and drought mitigation. We want to make sure there is enough water to grow crops in a dry year. Good water management and collaboration are the keys to dealing with both flood and drought.”

Erwin Braun, General Manager, Western Irrigation District

Modified operations at TransAlta facilities provide an important layer of resilience in a changing climate where flood and drought events are expected to become more common and more severe. Modified use of existing water management infrastructure complements the province’s other flood and drought resiliency efforts, including community-level mitigation, new flood hazard mapping, and the restoration of wetlands and riparian areas.

Last year’s agreement provided the province with up to 65 million cubic metres of flood storage at Ghost Reservoir during the high run-off season. The new agreement provides the same use of Ghost Reservoir, plus year-round control of reservoir levels at Barrier Lake, Upper Kananaskis Lake, and Lower Kananaskis Lake.

Initial reservoir target levels will be set prior to each operating season based on the provincial Water Supply Outlook, snowpack and soil moisture conditions, and prevailing weather patterns. However, water levels will fluctuate during the modified operations period to reflect ongoing risk assessments for both flood and drought.

Financial terms

The Alberta government will provide TransAlta with $5.5 million in compensation annually for five years to offset the impacts that modified operations will have on TransAlta’s ability to generate power at these facilities. 


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