Thursday, August 18, 2011

Calgary water surveillance cameras detect dangerous water levels

The City of Calgary can now see in real time if a river is rising to dangerous levels now that remote water surveillance cameras have been installed on the Bow and Elbow Rivers.

"These four cameras enable Water Service’s emergency operations staff, and others as needed, to monitor Bow and Elbow River levels in real time," says Frank Frigo, a Senior Planning Engineer with The City.

Information from the cameras is used to determine the course of action if there are potential

flooding situations, especially during Spring run-off or winter ice building periods.

“With the cameras, we get a more comprehensive idea of what the river is doing,” explains Jared Serviss, senior BCEM planner with Water Services. “We can also check accuracy of our other, primary methods of river-level reading should we need to. We get double benefit out of it in that we used the cameras to take pictures of debris build-up to relay to Alberta Environment.”

Within Calgary, there's a camera on the Elbow River at Sandy Beach and on the Bow River at Edmonton Trail and at the Bearspaw Raw II pumping station. Outside of Calgary, cameras on the Elbow River are installed in Bragg Creek and upstream of the Glenmore Resevoir.

Water level monitoring via camera locations upstream from Calgary are particularly valuable as they provide advance notice of river conditions with time to prepare for potential flooding. The cameras also provide a backup system to monitor levels in case the other systems, which are installed in the water, are damaged by flood or ice conditions.

Serviss says these cameras save valuable time during flooding.

“I think the benefits will be in the speed of information, real time versus waiting several hours for crews to go to each site and report back,” he says. “The cameras will allow us to check river levels on gauges without having to send teams out to the sites.”

Cameras also provide a valuable data set that can be used to understand an event and feed into ongoing river monitoring systems.  The City of Calgary river monitoring system includes numerous river and climate data sources, such as surveillance cameras, which increases the warning time in advance of high river levels.  In addition, numerous tools have been developed to aid in response planning, such as digital mapping of affected areas.

***Image: Camera located at Sandy Beach.

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