Bow River Basin Watershed Simulation project

Established in the wake of devastating floods in southern Alberta in 2013, the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program (WRRP) applies an integrated watershed approach to improve natural watershed function with the goal of building greater long-term resiliency. To inform this decision-making process in the Bow River Basin, the ALCES Online land use simulation model was applied to assess current and future risks to watershed function and the mitigation potential of conservation and restoration options. The scenarios incorporated the major land uses in the basin —- forestry, oil and gas extraction, agriculture, aggregate extraction, and urban and rural residential development — as well as forest fire. During the 50-year land use simulation, the expansion of land use was associated with elevated risk to watershed function, particularly in the central portion of the basin. The assessment of relative effectiveness of conservation and restoration strategies identified the strategies with the greatest potential benefit, and where to apply them for maximum effect. The hierarchical assessment of trade-offs among mitigation options is delivered to managers and stakeholders through a set of web-based dashboards, composed of dynamic maps and figures that convey future risks to watershed integrity and the effectiveness of mitigation options.