by Ann Sullivan
Rae Glacier melts and the Elbow River runs faster. Stop the flow and the river must stop too, correct? Well, no. Although glacial extent has become smaller due to changes in climate, stream flows in the Elbow have remained similar. To Éowyn Campbell, this means that water in the river is coming not only from glacial melt but from other places as well. Finding those places is the subject of Campbell’s PhD research at the University of Calgary.
Working with supervisor Dr. Cathy Ryan and funded by an NSERC Discovery Grant, Campbell is studying the “role of the river-connected alluvial aquifer (RCAA) of eastern-slopes rivers in storing and releasing water to the open stream.” She hopes her research will allow for a better understanding of river water and water sustainability. For example, how many drought years can the Elbow River sustain? What is the approximate volume of stored water in the RCAA? And is water storage capacity large enough that it will adjust to varying river flow rates? Given that the Elbow supplies water to about one-sixth of Albertans, this is critical information.
So far, Campbell has identified three places where water is likely being stored and released into the main streamflow of the Elbow: alluvial rocks, deep cracks in the mountains and hill-slope soils. “Once I know what proportion is coming from different sources,” she said, “I can estimate the volume of water stored in those sources and how long those sources would last.”
by Ann Sullivan
The Elbow River rages during the 1963 flood.
Over a lifetime of living on the banks of the Elbow, Barbara Teghtmeyer has seen the river in every state, from slow and meandering to full-blown raging. She can reel off a list of flood years: 1932 (“the mother of all floods”), 1948, 1963, ‘67, ‘68 and 1995. In her lifetime, though, the biggest and most destructive flood hit just four years ago, on June 20, 2013.
On the day the Elbow River came crashing through Bragg Creek, Teghtmeyer was up early to open the family-owned Shell gas station in the hamlet. At 5:30 that morning, the river was unusually high and unlike anything she’d seen. “I have never seen the river black, and there were vertical waves,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is bad. This is really bad.’”
The ERWP is celebrating Canada 150 by holding a photo contest in 2017. Our goal is to showcase the best photographs of the Elbow River watershed, including the river itself, wildlife, recreation, natural history, environment, culture and people. Each image should convey something evocative about the watershed and what the watershed means to you.
We require your submitted digital image and completed entry form by October 31, 2017.
After decades of negotiation, the Southwest Calgary Ring Road (SWCRR) is now under construction. Discussion about a ring road around the city began in the 1970s, when the population of Calgary was about 325,000. By 2013 the city’s population had multiplied four times to more than 1.3 million people. And while talks continued about the southwest portion of the road, a 70-kilometre stretch of ring road was completed northwest, northeast and southeast of the city.
In November 2013, the Government of Alberta and the Tsuut’ina Nation signed a land transfer agreement that would allow the SWCRR to be built. This piece of the city’s 100-kilomtre-plus ring road will run from Highway 8 (near Elbow Springs Golf Course) to McLeod Trail SE. The 31-kilometre stretch of six- and eight-lane divided highway will include 47 bridges – including crossings over the Elbow River and Fish Creek – and 14 interchanges. (For more information on the SWCRR, visit http://www.swcrrproject.com/.
Construction partnership Kiewit Graham Ledcor (KGL Constructors) is charged with designing and building the southwest ring road. As part of the project, KGL will work with Golder Associates to realign a 1.4-kilometre stretch of the Elbow River in the Transportation Utility Corridor west of 37 Street SW.
Written by Ann Sullivan
When Bob McAlpine began compiling information about the Elbow River watershed, he was surprised by what he found – and also by what he didn’t find. In pulling together a variety of reports and studies, McAlpine found no record of sampling or any hydrological evaluation of Elbow Lake, the source of the Elbow River in Kananaskis Country. “It’s probably the most important part of the whole river,” said McAlpine, a professional biologist and water quality specialist.
Bob McAlpine (second from right) speaks at Cobble Flats along the Elbow River during the ERWP’s annual general meeting in June 2016. Photo by Mike Murray
“I was shocked, actually, that the source of all our drinking water wasn’t being studied,” he said, although he added that it’s possible the information he believes missing is out there, just not currently available to the public.