2017 Conditions at Freeze-up Report
Nov. 15, 2017 - The Water Security Agency (WSA) issues their Conditions at Freeze-up report to summarize the conditions during the late fall/early winter period, which in combination with the winter snowpack become the initial conditions for the spring snowmelt runoff period. The report gives an early indication of areas which are more vulnerable to above or below normal runoff during the spring period. It is not a spring runoff forecast as winter snow accumulation is difficult to predict and is an important component in the runoff yield during the melt.
Below to near normal snowmelt runoff in the spring of 2017 was followed by several months of well below normal rainfall over much of southern Saskatchewan. Snowmelt runoff and summer rainfall was closer to normal over northern areas of the grain belt. Further north, conditions were very wet throughout the Churchill River Basin beginning in mid-April, particularly upper portions of the basin near Meadow Lake, resulting in well above normal flows through the summer months. These high flows within the Churchill River Basin have continued through the fall, with record or near record fall flows throughout the system.
Conditions remained dry through the fall for much of southern Saskatchewan other than areas that benefitted from the early October rain and snow event. This event brought accumulations as high as 70-100 mm along a 100-150 km wide band extending from the Cypress Hills northeast to Hudson Bay.
Soil moisture conditions were generally adequate across the province except for areas in south central Saskatchewan where agricultural drought conditions persist. Despite the hot and dry conditions experienced through the summer months, there were no major water supply concerns other than some domestic and stock watering concerns that emerged later in summer. Carryover from previous years and snowmelt runoff in 2017 was sufficient to meet most water supply demands in 2017. There is however a need to replenish supplies during the 2018 snowmelt runoff to secure supplies through 2018. Most groundwater resources showed some declines in levels in 2017, other than in the west central area where conditions were wetter, but remain at elevated levels.
Current long range forecasts and climate indices are suggest near normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for the first three months of winter.
With conditions dry over much of southern Saskatchewan, current concerns are related to water supply. The only area where wetter than normal conditions are elevating the runoff potential for the spring of 2018 is the Meadow Lake and Pierceland areas.
The initial Spring Runoff Outlook for 2018 will be issued in early February.
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