Recognizing the strategic importance of water to the region's environmental, social, and economic well-being, the University of Lethbridge committed itself over a decade ago to becoming an international leader in water-related research and education. The University of Lethbridge is proud to partner with agencies throughout southern Alberta to explore ways to conserve water, diversify water resources, protect water quality and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The University of Lethbridge South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) Project
In 2008, the University of Lethbridge, in collaboration with Hydrologics Inc. and the University of Texas at Austin, conducted a pilot project to improve integrated and collaborative water management decision-making in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB). The foundation of the project was an emulation of the SSRB using the OASIS software developed by Hydrologics, combined with SSRB stakeholder narratives captured by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.
Hydrologics' software - called OASIS, for Operational Analysis and Simulation of Integrated Systems - is a flexible, transparent and data-driven model that effectively stimulates water system operators' behaviour. OASIS is compatible with a range of other models, allowing for the exchange (send and receive) of data from other programs while the programs are running, enabling each program to react to information provided by the other. This simulation software has been used to model water systems throughout the United States and internationally.
The Bow River Project and the BROM
In 2010, the Bow River Project Research Consortium also engaged HydroLogics and OASIS as it sought to develop the Bow River Operational Model, or BROM (full project reports available on the Alberta WaterPortal at www.albertawater.com). Although built on the SSRB model developed with the University of Lethbridge, the BROM diverges from the SSRB model in that it attempts to model current and potential future operations beyond the constraints of the strict representation of Alberta’s water management licensing system. Further the BROM includes the entire Bow River system (including tributaries) from headwaters to the confluence with the Oldman.
The Consortium assembled and validated data from a number of sources, with permission, for use in OASIS. These sources included TransAlta Corporation, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s Water Resources Management Model (WRMM), the Irrigation Demand Model (developed by Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association), the Alberta Electricity System Operator, as well as incorporating basin specific Water Conservation Objectives. Operating rules were changed to reflect current demands and operations. As the model was being developed, Consortium members reviewed the results, as well as the operating rules and provided input on sources of inflow and return flows, protected demands, projected available system storage, and developed performance measures and other means of representing the operations of the entire Bow River Basin.
The SSRB Adaptation to Climate Variability Project
In 2012, many of the contributors to the Bow River Project Research Consortium came together with additional to further refine the BROM and use it to examine options for adapting to climate variability and change in the SSRB (full project reports available on the Alberta WaterPortal). The BROM is intended to be a trusted, open and transparent tool to support collaborative exploration of integrated water management decision-making opportunities at an entire watershed scale. Everything simulated in the model is consistent with Alberta’s water regulatory framework.
One of the major enhancements to the BROM was the addition of the Highwood and Sheep river system (major tributaries to the Bow River) within the model. This addition provided a publicly available tool that could be used in the analysis of specific impacts and the potential mitigation of water source options for communities in the Highwood and Sheep sub-basins, within the context of the entire Bow River Basin. Model runs can include infrastructure options as well as demand management and other opportunities/ideas that could be considered and run in the model. A previous version of the Highwood model existed in the WRMM, but was never directly linked to the rest of the Bow River. Additionally the Sheep River was not explicitly included in the original Highwood WRMM model.
The model is similarly being used in the Oldman and South Saskatchewan sub-basins to explore adaptation options for that region (OSSK Model). New data and information are being added to the model to reflect current management of these river systems as well as the southern tributaries (St. Mary River, Waterton River and Bely River).
The SSRB Water Project
Starting in late 2013, the SSRB Water Project will expand the modelling activity to include the Red Deer River Basin (full project reports available on the Alberta WaterPortal). The results will be integrated with the other collaborative modelling work in the SSRB. When completed, one of the key outputs/deliverables will be a publicly available mass balance streamflow model for the entire SSRB that is publically accessible.
The OASIS software as it relates to the SSRB is freely available to all stakeholders via the University's web site.
The University of Lethbridge SSRB Project
Bow River Operational Model (BROM), Updated July 2013
Oldman and South Sasktachewan Model (OSSK Model), pending
Red Deer Model (Pending)
SSRB Integrated Model (Pending)
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