Canadian Underwriter

Southeastern Saskatchewan should expect above normal spring runoff flows: Water Security Agency

March 10, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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The Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA) has released its March 2017 Spring Runoff Forecast, saying that the majority of the province is looking at a near normal spring runoff, “with the exception of southeastern Saskatchewan and areas west of Hudson Bay, where above normal flows are expected.”

The two areas of concern are in the extreme southeast corner of the province, where above normal snowfall and wetter-than-normal fall moisture conditions are creating an above normal runoff potential, WSA said in a press release on Thursday. The heaviest snowpack is located below Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs and near the Manitoba border. “This is also an area that was wetter than normal at freeze-up in 2016,” the agency said, adding that “unless conditions are favourable leading up to and during the spring melt, well above normal flows are expected.”

The recent snowstorm this week will “add slightly to these areas but not have a major impact,” WSA reported. While out-of-channel flows are expected, significant flood damages are not expected unless conditions significantly change leading up to and/or during the spring melt, the agency said.

The other area of concern is the Red Deer River Basin, located southwest of Hudson Bay. Well above normal moisture conditions in the fall of 2016 combined with a near normal snowpack is expected to result in above normal flows on the Red Deer River.

Much of the province experienced well above seasonal temperature episodes in January and February, resulting in snowmelt and runoff in February, the release said. In particular, the area south of Biggar and west of Avonlea saw the complete melt of the snowpack in mid-February. Snowmelt runoff is either completed or nearing completion within this area.

With a mountain snowpack that is currently near normal, conditions are expected to be near normal throughout the Saskatchewan River System over the next six months, assuming normal conditions going forward. While Lake Diefenbaker is currently at an above normal level for this time of year, it will be returned to near normal levels prior to the end of May, the agency suggested.

WSA will continue to monitor the 2017 spring runoff conditions across Saskatchewan, which may include further targeted snow surveys to verify snow accumulations.  If warranted, further updates will be issued as the spring runoff progresses.