Canadians are at increasing risk from water‐related events such as multiyear droughts, flooding and/or significant changes in historical precipitation patterns. Extreme hydrological events can also hinder our ability to protect and manage groundwater resources. The sets of specific precautionary measures and responses that are available to private versus public water users and stakeholders are not well understood, nor are they necessarily enabled or encouraged by existing water policies.
For example, there may be beneficial roles for selective infrastructure investments, revised water management protocols, or legal and regulatory changes, where these approaches can be considerably more effective, if undertaken in a coordinated manner. Some effects of increased flooding or drought can be more readily accommodated by some water using sectors than others, yet mechanisms to coordinate beneficial actions across sectors may be lacking. Although the returns to specific investment alternatives will be highly location and context‐specific, some types of prior investments or actions might have relatively higher returns than would come from remedial or adaptive measures alone.
The objective of this project has been to identify and assess water policy reforms to help Canadians prepare for and respond to extreme climate events such as droughts, flooding and greater hydrologic variation. Further, the project has sought to identify and assess selective public and private investments to prevent, to prepare for, to mitigate or to respond to extreme climate events. Such investments include, investments in system capacity, reliability, resilience and infrastructure. The research has employed computational methods to simulate the effects of various extreme events and has used the methods of social cost-effectiveness analysis to compared alternative strategies that mitigate the social costs of these events.
Project researchers have worked with Hydrologics, Inc. to extend computational analysis (based on the Bow River Operational Model) to explore hypothetical episodes of drought that are more severe and/or more prolonged than those that have been previously studied. These modelling results with revised climate parameters characterize the scope and extent of (simulated and hypothetical) multiyear droughts that could affect the South Saskatchewan Basin of Alberta. While such extreme events have a low probability of occurrence, if climate does become more extreme lessons from California and Australia suggest that there could be a large economic return from making and enabling policy changes prior to the arrival of specific drought events.
On the flood side, this research has compared and contrasted various infrastructural approaches to future flood protection, with the use of other policy tools such as zoning, regulation and flood insurance. This work also points to specific gaps in the methodologies currently employed to estimate the social costs of flood events, and, by extension, to estimate the social returns to flood mitigation measures.
Research team hosted a key end-user oriented workshop to mobilize research efforts:
Additionally, this research has been disseminated through several presentations: