As I sit here in Vancouver reading about the flooding and the state of emergency in Alberta I can’t help but feel a desire to be out in Alberta monitoring and recording. As a field tech you never shake that rush you get from chasing high water and it sticks with you for the rest of your career. It’s stressful, it’s exciting and at times it’s scary. As people in Alberta are seeing firsthand the raw power of water is awe inspiring and fear inducing.
The current flooding in Alberta hits close to home for me.
I have many close friends all over Alberta and I lived in Calgary for number of years while going to school. I also worked at the Water Survey of Canada office there. While working for Water Survey I had the opportunity to monitor the rivers around High River and am familiar with area. I know many of the people in the Water Survey of Canada office and know that they are working tirelessly right now. There is a small army of Federal, Provincial and Municipal agencies doing all they can to manage this situation safely.
On any other day, you may have driven past these people as they go about their work having no idea what they do, but on days like today their work comes to the forefront. Right now techs are running around the province heading towards the high water as people are evacuated. The network of monitoring stations that these techs run is under attack from the high water. Gauge buildings will be washed away, orifice lines and pressure transducers ripped out, and dataloggers will go missing or be corrupted by the water.
It is now a fight to collect as much data as possible when most of their tools have been taken away from them.
Where it is safe to do so, the techs will be taking water levels from bridges, surveying water levels, marking high water marks on structures, trees and wherever they can. They will drive stakes into the ground at the water’s edge to track water level increases or deploy temporary transducers if possible. If conditions allow they will measure the river’s flow but this can be difficult and dangerous at high water. There is debris, turbulent, cold water and a lack of access and egress to and from the river to contend with. They will take pictures, pictures and more pictures. All this information will be communicated back and forth between the techs and the office. The office provides that information to the stakeholders and provides feedback and direction to field staff. Being able to quickly integrate, manage, check and disseminate that information is crucial.
The need for water resource management backed by timely accurate data is highlighted in these situations.
The combination of accurate meteorological and hydrometric data can allow for informed decision making, design, flood warnings and resource allocation in situations like this. After the fact the data needs to managed, interpreted, finalized and communicated to all stakeholders. Having the right tools in the office is just as important as having the right tools in the field.
One of my reasons for joining Aquatic Informatics is that I want to make the best tools possible for the guys in the field.
I was that guy in the boat chasing high water and I was the guy frustrated by the lack of power and flexibility in the office tools we had. I hope to bring that perspective and context to Aquatic Informatics and make AQUARIUS an invaluable tool to all the water resource professionals out there.
I want to extend my thanks for all the efforts put forth by the people in these organizations and hope that everyone gets home safely at the end of the day.
My condolences go out to all the people across Alberta impacted by the flooding. I can’t even imagine the loss some people are facing right now. People are being evacuated as homes, businesses, vehicles and even main streets are being submerged by flooding. I hope that communities and community members support one another during this time and that they come back stronger.
Photo Credit: Sue Carscallen, Calgary Alberta