With half of the province fairly dry and the other half still under a decent amount of snow, Saskatchewan’s most recent spring runoff report is all over the map, figuratively and literally. The west is following suit of Alberta and is showing dryer conditions, where large portions of the eastern side of the province is still under snow, much like Manitoba, though to a much lesser degree.
The delay of spring-like weather could be a positive for the province though, with Sean Osmar, manager of communications for the Water Security Agency (WSA), stating the lower temperatures have allowed the snowmelt to absorb, for the most part, into the soil.
“So far, every forecast seems to indicate these cooler temperatures are going to stick around… and that will help moderate or pump the brakes on the melt a little bit to keep the water either moving into the soil or into the channels and reservoirs where where we need it.”
This is good news for many as last year, the latter half of summer brought with it extreme heat and subsequently, many producers found themselves in the middle of a severe drought which had detrimental implications at harvest.
The WSA’s latest report outlined higher than expected runoff in the Moose Jaw, Swift Current, and Old Wives’ basins has helped replenish water supply reservoirs. Runoff in the Maple Creek, Battle, Frenchman and Lodge Creek basins, while below normal, is higher than expected, but the Bigstick Basin is still below normal.
On the Qu’Appelle system, ice in the channel is causing higher than expected water levels throughout the system. Ice jamming remains a possibility and WSA continues to monitor this situation. Diversions into Last Mountain Lake are challenging due to the ice and some flow is being passed downstream on the Qu’Appelle River to prevent flooding upstream of Craven. With the exception of Last Mountain Lake, WSA expects all the lakes in the Qu’Appelle system to reach desirable summer levels.
While the slow melt is reducing the runoff potential in areas where there is snow, a rapid melt could produce higher than expected runoff in some areas.
With still higher than normal alpine snowpack, WSA expects strong flows along the South Saskatchewan River and will help bring levels at Lake Diefenbaker up to desirable levels for summer, improving conditions for irrigation, recreation and hydro generation.
Further north, spring melt and runoff are in the early stages and WSA does not expect significant changes to the March forecast unless conditions change dramatically due to rapidly warmer temperatures.
Osmar says the WSA will continue to monitor the conditions on a weekly basis moving forward, with potentially more moisture on the way for the west central and eastern parts of the province over the next week.