The Saskatchewan Water Security Agency has released its preliminary spring runoff report. The report provides a snapshot for runoff potential including any early concerns around flooding and ice jams. The projections are based on figures provided as of February 1. It takes into account current regional snowpack and conditions at freeze up the previous year.
Relatively dry soil moisture conditions in central and southwest parts of the province are pointing toward a below normal snowmelt runoff. The exceptions include the Val Marie / Cypress Hills region which received a higher than usual snowfall. However, the northwest, central and southeast areas of the province are looking for a normal runoff given previous soil moisture levels and abundant snowfall in many areas.
The report notes that an area in the southwest, which includes Maple Creek, is expected to see a runoff response that is well below normal. Periodic warm temperatures in this area have eliminated nearly all the snowpack. This, combined with dry fall soil moisture conditions prior to freeze-up, have increased the probability of minimal snowmelt runoff this spring.
In east-central Saskatchewan, early snowfalls contributed to a substantial snowpack. However, a region south of Humboldt near Watrous has received less than normal snowfall amounts. Now it’s a matter of how fast the temperatures warm up in the spring to determine whether soil moisture is recharged. A slower melt means more water can penetrate the soil as the ground warms up. A faster melt heightens the chance of increased water supplies to reservoirs.
The Saskatchewan River Basin System, which relies on mountain snowpack, shows alpine snow accumulation seems to indicate the potential for flows into Saskatchewan in May and June that are sufficient to meet all user needs over the summer months.
The report indicates that the Quill lakes are at an elevation of 519.6 m. This elevation is approximately the same as this time last year. The November and December snowfall recorded at Wynyard was above normal (52 mm, 157 percent of normal), but the area received minimal snow in January bringing winter accumulations closer to normal. The runoff response to the Quill lakes will depend largely on the snow received over the next couple of months, the melt rate, and the conditions at the soil surface.
All lakes within the Qu’Appelle River Basin are at near normal levels for this time of year. With drier soil moisture conditions at freeze-up and less winter precipitation, areas upstream of Buffalo Pound Lake and lower portions of the Moose Jaw River are expected to experience a below normal snowmelt runoff response.
WSA will issue a Spring Snowmelt Forecast in early March.