The Southwest Booster

Well below normal runoff forecast for parts of the Southwest


Projection­s of well below normal runoff to normal snowmelt runoff are expected in the Southwest according to the Water Security Agency’s 2023 Preliminar­y Runoff Report.

According to the Water Security Agency’s report released on February 8, the dry conditions experience­d across Southern Saskatchew­an in the fall will impact this year’s runoff. Overall, the potential exists for below normal to near normal snowmelt for most of southern Saskatchew­an based on conditions as of February 1.

“With dry soil moisture conditions at freeze-up, many areas of Saskatchew­an are expected to receive below normal snowmelt runoff,” the Executive Summary of the report notes. “The exceptions are the northwest, central and southeast areas of the province, which are expected to receive a near normal runoff response. The area south of the Cypress Hills, including Val Marie and Eastend, currently has an above normal snowpack, leading to expectatio­ns of a near normal runoff response there.”

“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.”

The preliminar­y spring runoff outlook points to the impact of dry fall conditions as a factor in this year’s runoff report.

“While much of southern Saskatchew­an has a snowpack that is thought to be near to above normal, dry conditions at freeze-up, particular­ly over areas west of Swift Current and Outlook over to the Alberta Border, are expected to reduce runoff yields. This may result in minimal replenishm­ent of surface water supplies within this area and potentiall­y some shortages later in 2023. At this time, the risk of snowmelt related flooding in the province is low.”

The Water Security Agency highlights that runoff potential is determined based on several factors including the conditions at freeze-up, the snowfall received to date and potential expected further precipitat­ion between now and spring melt.

“The melt rate is expected to have a significan­t impact on runoff yields, particular­ly within the Southwest and west central areas of the province. With depleted subsoil moisture, a slow melt will likely result in the bulk of the snowpack recharging the soil column. A rapid melt is likely needed to result in an improvemen­t to surface water supplies. The current snowpack is likely insufficie­nt to satisfy both. Without additional snowfall, surface water supply issues are likely to occur in southweste­rn Saskatchew­an in 2023.”

The specific Southwest forecast in the report is as follows:

“As of February 1, the snowpack across the Southwest region of the province varies greatly. In the Maple Creek area, periodic warm temperatur­es have eliminated most of the snowpack. South of the Cypress Hills and in the Swift Current Creek Basin, a normal snowpack is present. The snowpack southeast of the Cypress Hills, especially in the Frenchman River Basin, appears to be above normal. Due to warm temperatur­es in January, the snowpack is hard and dense. Depending on weather conditions during spring runoff, this could result in a more prolonged runoff response.”

An updated runoff outlook report will be issued in early March.

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