Calgary River Valleys – Riverbank Makeover Project

Calgary River Valleys image

Calgary River Valleys (CRV) is an independent, not-for-profit organization led by volunteers dedicated to building a strong and effective voice for river valley protection and water quality in Calgary. In 2018, with funding from the City of Calgary, we are conducting a pilot project, The Elbow River Riverbank Makeover Project. The first part of the project involves determining what Elbow River homeowners already know about the riparian zone, and how to care for it. The second part involves working with one homeowner on the Elbow River to replant their riparian zone using natively adapted vegetation which will both stabilize the bank and improve the health of the riparian zone.

What is the Riparian Zone?

The riparian zone is the transition area between water bodies and the surrounding land called uplands. The zone itself can range in width from 5 to 60 meters from the water. It is an area with moist soil that supports water-loving trees, shrubs, and plants. A healthy riparian zone with locally adapted native vegetation which build deep root structures in the soil can help prevent bank erosion, reduce the force and energy of water during flood events, trap and filter sediment, absorb floodwater, recharge groundwater, store nutrients and contaminants, and provide shade and food for both fish and wildlife. These functions help to improve both water quality and water quantity.

What Elbow River Homeowners are Currently Doing – Preliminary Survey Results

The preliminary results of our survey of homeowners on the Elbow River has shown that, in general, homeowners are not only aware of the problems facing river and riparian health but are knowledgeable of the sorts of actions they can take to protect the river and their own property from flood damage. Several of the homeowners we surveyed recognize the value and beauty of natural vegetation in the riparian zone and they have trees, bushes, sedges and native grasses growing there. Indeed, while some homeowners use engineering solutions such as tiered yards and retaining walls, they also recognize the value and importance of keeping a variety of vegetation in their riparian zone.

How You Can Participate

If you live beside the Elbow River, want to learn more about how to protect your yard from erosion during high water events and contribute to better water quality in the Elbow River, or are just interested in learning more about this pilot project, we want to hear from you. In October 2018, CRV will be hosting a garden tour and education event at the demonstration site; we would like to invite interested homeowners to participate and learn about the various strategies we used that you too can use on your own property. For more details, please contact Calgary River Valleys by email at: [email protected] or by phone at 403-268-4632. You can also find more information about this project on CRV’s website: