Keeping Track of Water Flows at Baxter Creek

Photo: Karen Graham
Water Technician Stan takes the measure of the water level and the rate of flow in Baxter Creek

Since 2005, Environment Canada has been monitoring the water in the portion of Baxter Creek that flows behind the old Millbrook Arena.  Inside small metal box mounted on a pole beside the bridge is monitoring equipment that takes measurements of the height and flow of the water, recording their findings every five minutes.  The box is called a hydrometric station, and is one of roughly 2100 operating across the country, most of them transmitting information to a dedicated website via satellite or telephone communications systems.  The organization operating these stations is the Water Survey of Canada.

Stan, pictured here, is a self-described mid-level technologist with the agency.  He explained that this data is used in flood forecasting models.  The relationship between water levels and discharge or flow rates are used to develop discharge projections.  The models attempt to predict how fast the water will flow in a waterway at different water levels.  The monthly measurements he and his colleagues take help to reaffirm projections calculated by these models, acting as “guardrails” to the forecasts by updating and fine tuning them.  Basically, higher water levels mean faster flows, but where does that water go?  This is the data used in floodplain mapping.

Photo: Karen Graham

When plans for the replacement of the Millbrook Dam were being formulated in 2015, cost forecasts rose dramatically in response to updated regulations dictating that new infrastructure had to be built to protect against what was called a “100 year flood” event.  This prompted a few eye rolls at the time, but weather events in recent years has turned many former sceptics into true believers.  Last week, the Federal Government announced a $1.6B commitment to municipalities to improve their infrastructure and floodplain mapping as part of its new climate strategy.  Apparently, the Federal Government believes.  Our community seems to be ahead of the game.  Our dam construction project anticipated and prepared for more dramatic water level changes, and earlier this year, ORCA completed our floodplain mapping.  It’s a start.  KG

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