Improving Drought Resilience in Alberta Through Simulation

Drought is a natural, recurrent phenomenon in Alberta. Recent studies have shown that we can expect extended droughts to become more frequent in the future, and a number of initiatives are underway in the province to improve drought preparedness. The Government of Alberta (GoA) is developing a Provincial Drought Response Plan that will outline management and communication actions in times of drought.

At the same time, the Alberta Water Council (AWC) is working on building a guide to assist Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils as they engage municipalities to better prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from multi-year droughts. This guide is expected to be completed by fall 2019 and aims to synthesize available information about drought management, tools, and resources in the province. Finally, the Miistakis Institute is also working with a pilot community to develop a process for drought mitigation planning; this project is expected to conclude by June 2020.

Managing drought involves complex monitoring, decision making, and communication before, during and after a drought to mitigate the impacts and respond accordingly, but these are often difficult to plan thoroughly without experiencing a drought. Simulation exercises provide an opportunity to work through a scenario that closely mimics a real-life event, and they can be a powerful tool to test management structure and communication strategies. The Invitational Drought Tournament developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides one example of a simulation tool that uses game theory to explore and test drought preparedness.

This project proposes to build on the work being conducted by the AWC, the GoA, and the Miistakis Institute to develop a simulation that will allow communities to test in a workshop environment proposed drought management structure, communications channels, tools, and resources. Throughout the exercise the participants will have to react accordingly, in line with draft plans and resources, highlighting potential issues with implementation. The exercise will lead participants through the initiation of drought through to high pressure and stress on their system, and then into recovery and evaluation phases. The participants will be reflective of the different roles across communities, stakeholders, and government agencies.

For more information on this project, see the project’s terms of reference.

Final Documents

The project team’s work was approved by the Council in 2024 and publicly released shortly after. The final documents can be found below and are as follows:

For more information about the project, please contact Project Manager Mariem Oloroso at [email protected]  

Literature Review

The AWC engaged a consultant to conduct a literature review as the first step towards development of the simulation exercise.

One aspect of this project is the development of a drought simulation exercise to assist stakeholders understanding and planning for drought preparation and response in Alberta. The AWC engaged a consultant to conduct a literature review as the first step towards development of the simulation exercise. The literature review is comprised of three tasks:

1. A drought management review to understand the regulatory framework, historical drought response and drought management approach within Alberta and external jurisdictions of interest.

2. A review of drought simulation exercises conducted in other jurisdictions to identify and assess exercise types, goals and outcomes.

3. A review of interactive decision support tools that can be used to potentially support the AWC simulation exercise.

In addition to Alberta drought management, approaches were reviewed in Saskatchewan, California and South Carolina. Appendices are available upon request. To view the literature review report, see here.

Drought Simulation Exercise

In May 2021 the Alberta Water Council (AWC) project team engaged a consultant to plan and execute a drought simulation exercise focused on drought in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB). This exercise was subsequently titled the SSRB Drought Simulation Exercise. The AWC project team and consultant worked closely together to plan and design the exercise.This memorandum style document compiles the key information gathered and synthesizes the key takeaways from the SSRB Drought Simulation Exercise.

This document is intended to be a reference for the AWC project team in preparing their final report. To view the final report, see here.


  You must be logged in to view these files.