Water, water everywhere

One thing I haven’t written about in this blog since I started it a little over a year ago is my “day job”.  I may have mentioned that I’m in engineer (so I like numbers), but I apply those engineering skills to water.  When I’m not riding my bike, cleaning/tuning my bikes or thinking about cycling, I’m often thinking about water.

Over the past few days, Ontario has been hit with A LOT of rain.  Many areas are flooded and river levels are high.  But how much is A LOT of rain?

Here in the Region of Waterloo, we typically get about 900 mm (about 3 feet) of precipitation in an average year.  This includes the water-equivalent of winter snowfall.  For comparison, Halifax and Vancouver typically get about 1500 mm per year, while dry places like Phoenix gets about 300 mm per year.

What does this mean?

Well, in an average month of May, Waterloo sees about 80 mm of rain.  Over the past 6 days, we’ve received about 70 mm of rain.  So if it doesn’t rain in May for the rest of the month (unlikely), we’re close to the monthly average.  This is a lot of rain in 6 days.

But it’s not as much rain as Peterborough (>90 mm) or Kingston (>100 mm) have received over the same time period.  Good luck to the MTB O-cuppers in Kingston today!

Yesterday (Saturday May 6th), we had a steady, light rain for most of the day.  It was cold (around 5 degrees C), wet and windy.  In other words, miserable weather for cycling outside.  What can we do on days like this?  Well for starters, TeamColin blogged about alternatives.  I can see myself doing some of the items on his list on rainy days (like Joyride 150, the fantastic indoor bike park north of Toronto).  But other things…. like… chores?  Seriously, Colin?

Faced with this yesterday, rather than binge watching Netfilx, I decided to combine my day job with my cycling obsession.  I bundled up, hopped on my fat bike and rode to the local rivers to see if any flooding was occuring.  I live very close to the Grand River, and the Walter Bean trail (which runs alongside the Grand) is a frequent riding loop of mine.

My first stop was just a kilometre or two from home.  This first photo shows a fast-flowing Grand River with high water levels, but no serious flooding.  The Walter Bean trail, which has been flooded in this area in the past, was not under water.

From there, I rode down to the bridge at Bridgeport.  There’s a flow gage here, so you can get real-time flow data online (more numbers coming…).  On May 1st, the flow rate here was about 30 cubic metres per second. In other words, 30,000 litres of water flowed under this bridge every second on May 1. Normal summer low-flow is about 11 cubic metres per second (11,000 litres per second).

When I was out there yesterday, the flow rate was about 270 cubic metres per second (270,000 litres per second)!  And this is what I saw:

Grand River flowing under the Bridgeport bridge.
Looking towards the west. On the left you can see a paved path that goes under the bridge. In the past, this path has been under water (Spring 2016).
Looking back eastward, just downstream from the bridge (west side). Some trees on the low banks were flooded.
I think ball games were cancelled. This ball diamond and some soccer fields were built on the stormwater runoff area.

One last Grand River stop was a short ride on Lancaster Rd to Riverbend Drive to a “look out”.

Panorama from the lookout on Riverbend Drive. The Bridgeport bridge can be seen on the left. Grand River is flowing left to right. Some trees near the river are flooded, and there’s even some white water!

From there, I rode to Bechtel Park, where Laurel Creek flows towards the Grand River. Less than a kilometre from my home, this is a frequent spot for me for quick bike rides, dog walks and hikes, all year-round.

Laurel Creek was flowing higher than normal (as expected):

High waters of Laurel Creek.  Water around here is about a foot deep in summer.
Pedestrian bridge over Laurel Creek.  This bridge still had a lot of clearance before it would have flooded.

This short 12 km ride was a last-minute decision, and my fat-bike still had some P2A mud and the P2A race plate!  Riding alone in the cold rain was somehow soothing and peaceful and the rain helped to wash more mud from my bike.  It’s really cool to be able to get outside on a cold, rainy day like this.

Here’s a cool video of my ride on Relive.


One thought on “Water, water everywhere

  1. Steve, I’ve been on lots of cold rainy rides with you. Always fun. Thanks for the numbers.


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