Word on the trail is flow rates mean different things depending on who you are talking to. What’s true, what’s not true? Let me get my rumour stick and let’s filter out the facts.
First, river flow rates are measured in cubic metres per second (cms). The new flood mitigation system will be adaptive with permanent berms to protect Drumheller to 1,850 cms with the ability to increase protection with additional temporary berms. The highest flow rate measured was 2,100 cms during the 1915 flood. Right now the river is flowing at about 16 cms. In my day the water was even more wild with all the melting glaciers, but we didn’t stop to measure.
Today, we need a simple way to know our flow and the implications – when it’s safe to play in the river or run for the hills. When the river is at about 300 cms or lower it’s so fun to canoe and kayak, but after that here’s what you need to know: at 600 cms, the river is getting high; at 900 cms, we need to start paying attention, as it’s getting serious; at 1,400 cms our existing berms are in jeopardy; at 1,640 cms the water is over the current berms; at 2,100 cms we’re back to the future – aka 1915 flood territory. Higher yet, we’ve measured 2,300 cms coming into the Dickson Dam and in 2005 and 2013 there were predictions we could have been as high as 3,000 cms.
Clearly, there is very little room for rumours when it comes to flow rates, which is why it’s so important to know your flow. To make it crystal clear, we will be installing colour coded markers close to the river so we all know at a glance what the river is doing, and more importantly, what we need to be doing.
When does construction of the new berms start?