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Dangers of Edmonton’s Stormwater Ponds

When I moved to Edmonton from Vancouver 10 years ago, I moved into a really great neighbourhood with a green space and a pond! I was so excited that all these neighbourhoods have these little areas with ponds and perfect little paths around them for biking with your kids! There were plants and trees and geese all around these little ponds, and who wouldn’t love that? After living in Edmonton for a while I found out that these little ponds were not actually real “ponds” but stormwater ponds.

Whatever they were, “ponds” or “stormwater ponds,”  I didn’t care. It literally put zero thought into them except when we went for walks, and eventually bike rides around our community pond. When winter rolled around I’d see a hockey net on the pond and think about how cool it was where we lived and wouldn’t it be amazing when my kids could skate on their local pond.  We were living in a Canadian postcard and were able to enjoy what ALL Canadians deserve and love (unless you live in downtown Vancouver), frozen ice for recreational use.

Turns out that you’re not actually supposed to go on the pond. Not when it’s frozen or thawed. No hockey. No skating. No outside recreational fun.

Canadian winter dreams dashed into a million pieces.

You see, stormwater ponds (they’re actually not ponds but facilities) are used for the drainage of excess water after a storm or a major thaw of water, thus protecting our neighbourhoods from floods. They differ from regular ponds in that the water in the stormwater pond isn’t stagnant. There is a constant flow of water in the stormwater facility. There is both an inlet and outlet pipe that keeps water moving which means in the winter, even though it looks like the water is frozen and safe, it’s not. 

Since the water underneath the ice is constantly moving, it generates some heat warm enough to melt certain parts of the ice, thus making the ice on the stormwater facility extremely unstable, unpredictable and highly dangerous. Stormwater also brings in water from the roads which can include salt and sand making the ice unstable.

We recently spoke with Epcor about the stormwater ponds in Edmonton and they informed us that although the ice may appear thick in some areas, other areas may have little to no ice and often snow can cover the areas where there may be a visible indication of unsafe conditions.

Long story short, stormwater facilities are to be enjoyed from afar as you’re going for a walk, ride your bike or creeping past Canada geese who like to sit on their banks. The stormwater ponds (aka stormwater facilities) are NOT for boating, ice skating, swimming or any other recreational activity.

Not all is lost! You can still have your quintessential Canadian dream of gliding on ice outside in the cold. The good people at Epcor have compiled a list of ALL the community rinks in Edmonton and listed where it’s safe to skate outside and where it’s not.

Places that are safe to skate in Edmonton include community league rinks, City Hall, Victoria Park Oval, Hawrelak Park as well as many others. To access the list of safe recreational rinks to enjoy this winter, as well as a list of the stormwater facilities, click HERE . 

Remember kids, stay off the ice, and the stormwater facilities altogether and enjoy these green spaces in your neighbourhood with safety in mind.