Drumheller Workshop: September 26, 2013


Public and



of Terms


Badlands Community Facility
Sept 26, 2013
10am – 3pm


  • To seek input and have discussions on the Background Technical Report (surface water quantity / groundwater resources) for the Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP)
  • To find out what stakeholders are already doing in the areas of surface water quantity and groundwater
  • To build collaborative relationships with stakeholders so they will assist in the implementation of the IWMP


Welcome, introductions, housekeeping, roles, ground rules, and agenda review. Background on watershed planning process (PDF of presentation by Alan Dolan).

Surface Water Quantity

George Roman of O2 Planning + Design presented on the Background Technical Report (BTR3) - Surface Water Quantity and Groundwater Resources

George's presentation can be viewed here.

Questions / Comments

  • Is mapping going to be updated? (1 in 50 year flood vs. 1 in 100 year flood)
  • Where's the turn of the century to 1900 (on the graph)? It seems to run on a cycle. The 20th century was the wettest century of the last 1,000 years.
  • Tour of Dickson Dam via RDRMUG, current volume of water that the dam holds would last 200 days
  • Oldman River Dam has experimented with different operating procedures
  • Should investigate experimenting with operating procedures at Dickson Dam
  • 540 (550) would trigger temporary suspension of new licences . . . 600 is the new trigger
  • Red Deer very under allocated (35% - 40%) especially compared to Bow and other rivers; concern expressed about under allocation in the future 
  • Have any growth scenarios been looked at? South Saskatchewan Water Management Plan – 2015 / 2016
  • Need proper monitoring of water flows, old metrics are no longer valid (e.g., flood prediction capacity)
  • Flow data is unreliable because equipment is poor
  • The province put in more monitoring stations
  • Who would be the regulators with all of the various departments (re: munis)? Mostly municipal cross-sectoral influences (e.g., WPACs, Water for Life Strategy)
  • Re: groundwater: How are wells taken into consideration for measuring total volume of water drawn? If the well is in an alluvial aquifer it will show up in surface water monitoring
  • Who monitors slopes (re: trees)? ESRD Forest Management
  • How do you take into account a golf course — surface versus groundwater
  • Reusing Municipal Waste Water for industrial uses - what is the incentive to do this for industrial usage? What is the benefit on the watershed when the net volume doesn't change?
  • Why aren't municipalities getting credit for what is returned to the natural flow of the river?
  • Via Mayor of Canmore - because of the recent flooding, there are a lot of slopes in the upper watershed that have been sheered off (damaging mitigation of flow rate) - are these statistics taking this into consideration?
  • Aquatic recreation is of higher concern to Drumheller residents than environmental impact
  • The change of river flow has been really noticeable in the last few years
  • Who does flood plain maps - province or municipalities?

Groundwater Resources

George Roman presented (on behalf of Jon Fennell) on Groundwater Resources

Jon's presentation can be viewed here.

Questions / Comments

  • Are there underground maps of tributaries to a main flow?
  • Delburne has two lakes - one is spring-fed and maintains a consistent level, the other fluctuates and has been rising since 2005.
  • City of Medicine Hat has a large aquifer below the municipality; challenges with building a factory in the area
  • Seven of ten years ago the river was flowing considerably higher in Drumheller; rumour is the dam is holding water back for the Gleniffer Reservoir
  • Education of Drumheller residents is constantly needed to explain to people how the Dickson Dam operates and functions and why
  • There's a lot of misinformation about the impact of dam operations (e.g., death of Cottonwood trees along the river's edge)
  • RDRWA should play a role in explaining the operations of the Dickson Dam
  • Little Red Deer River dammed up and saved Drumheller from flooding in recent years
  • The dam enabled economic development in the region and supported a population that would have otherwise emigrated; over the long haul it has proven benefits for the communities around it


Breakout groups (answer two questions)

  • What is your organization doing with regard to surface water quantity and groundwater?
  • How can we work together to implement the actions in the background technical report?

Group harvest from breakout groups

Group #1 Notes

What is Happening?

  • Delburne Council (Municipal Users Group)
    • Groundwater / wells, aquifers, treatment
    • Waste water assessment (study done)
    • Storm water assessment (study done)
    • Some flood mitigation
    • Infrastructure issues
    • Population of 900 people
  • Kneehill County
    • Water from Drumheller plant
    • Potable water, “good water” for county council - some “yes,” some “no,” for future even if wells
    • Communications – work with groups
  • MLA officer – fact finding visit for needs and issues
  • Town of Drumheller
    • Floodplain proposed values, mitigation and dike building
    • State of art treatment (big capacity), RD River
    • Alberta regulations vs. stormwater sewage
    • Return to river flow
    • Town strung out – access to system by all residents
    • Groundwater not an issue
  • Sheerness (ATCO Power)
    • Monitoring water intake and return flow – a lot of water is diverted from the RD River, but a lot of water is also used by farmers for irrigation before it reaches the plant
    • Discharge of sewage – three evaporative ponds
  • Clearwater County
    • Headwater of systems
    • No groundwater issues – all towns are on groundwater use
    • Re-wrote 2010 Development Plan – no development on the flood plain
    • Clearwater Land Care is riparian area management
    • Some public issues with fracking – amount of potable water being used (deep wells)
  • Rocky Mountain House – no water treatment, discharging into North Saskatchewan
    • Clearwater river flooding – Raven – Red Deer system
    • Oil activity – Town vs. County land – 3 km around the Village of Delburne
    • Issues with coal bed methane (aquifer contamination)

How Can We Work Together?

  1. Watershed Alliance can present information and recommendations to AB Government
  2. Municipal groups want to work more closely with the Watershed Alliance and others; are kept informed
  3. Flood management – people relocation vs. protecting people's property
  4. Dike location – control river flow but rainfall may back up behind the dike and not get to the river
  5. Regulatory controls – on existing development on the flood plain vs. new development
  6. Allocation measure actual use? And return flow? And quality?

Group #1 Summary

  • Infrastructure issues - backwater flow valves, preventing flooding
  • Kneehill County water comes from the Drumheller plant; could be extended to other municipalities in the region (presently underutilized capacity)
  • Decommissioning of water wells at the end of their life - can cost up to $1,000 per well
  • Flood prevention strategies
  • Regulations are changing regarding return flow to the river
  • Sheerness Generating Station has programs in place for monitoring surface and groundwater use / impact

Group #2 Notes and Summary

What is Happening?

  • Wheatland County – water conservation planning underway
  • Drumheller – green team; implementing rain barrels, composters, low-flow toilets with residents - 4 years running, drive-by water metering process (wifi), flow detection improved (i.e., leaks) . . . started fall of 2012
  • Cochrane – water treatment and wastewater – low-flow faucet and showerheads subsidized by the municipality to reduce domestic consumption
  • City of Red Deer – Environmental Master Plan, Stormwater Management Plan, new Wastewater Plant upgrades
  • Alberta Plumbing Code – updating for greywater systems and rainwater harvesting
  • Water for Life Strategy (AB Gov't) – Conservation, Efficiency and Productivity Planning (CEP), NOVA Chemicals has established CEP Plan in 2013
  • Starland County – multiple water sources, planned increase drawing from the Red Deer River
  • AESRD – provincial groundwater atlas produced (available online), multiple program for proper well abandonment (e.g., Kneehill County), water metering (fixing leaks)

How Can We Work Together?

  • Greywater and rainwater harvesting system permitting
  • Designing urban and rural developments with improved water infiltration
  • Recycling wastewater (fertilizer for biofuel – coppiced willow treated with municipal sewage as fertilizer, biofuel is used in wood boiler by municipality for energy) – see Green Energy Futures “Waste to Willows” video for more details.
  • Stormwater – constructed natural ponds
  • Differences between new and restoring wetlands (re: new provincial policy)
  • Look at all uses – not just water from the river (ephemeral water bodies)
  • Education around rural vs. urban standards on stormwater management (awareness of management practices and policy) – Dickson Dam operation needs to be better understood by the general public to improve public discourse and opinion (e.g., what it does and doesn't do)
  • ESRD – lead by innovation for best management practices (global examples tailored to local application)
  • Regional water systems – maximizing available capacity of municipal systems to meet regional demand

Review Day

General comments / discussion:

Long-term mitigation efforts for impacts of floods / drought

  • Short-term planning and action needs to work in concert with long-term planning and action

35% - 40% of water to Special Areas would be lost if off-stream storage practices were implemented . . . results are drought-proofing some areas but increasing vulnerability of other areas

20%-25% of the year, the RD River is not meeting its water conservation objective targets

Sylvan Lake - need to monitor and protect groundwater in the area as it is used by the municipality for residential servicing

Groundwater levels for municipalities need to have metrics included in the IWMP for those communities reliant upon it for their water supply; future councils need this info to produce effective development plans

Next steps

Online response form is open until October 15, 2013

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