Water Security Agency

Quill Lakes

There used to be two Quill Lakes. Over the years, water levels have risen and formed one big lake, flooding thousands of acres of farmland and threatening infrastructure. 

Flood Mitigation Report

Looking at Options: Quill Lakes

The situation in the Quill Lakes is one of the most complex water management issues in Canada. The Water Security Agency (WSA) has been looking into options to deal with the rising lake levels for a number of years. Every alternative involving storing water or diverting it, comes with significant costs and/or environmental consequences.

Agricultural Water Management Strategy

In 2015, WSA announced the new Agricultural Water Management Strategy and regulations governing agricultural drainage. The strategy focuses on responsible drainage by allowing agricultural drainage as long as the impacts (including downstream flooding) can be mitigated. The new regulatory approach seeks to bring all drainage works into compliance over the next number of years, starting with the highest risk areas. The Quill Lakes Basin is one of the highest risk areas in the province because of the flooding impacts to farmland and infrastructure.

New Drainage Regulations

The Water Security Agency intends to bring all unapproved drainage into compliance over the next decade, beginning in priority areas.  The Quill Lakes is one of the top priority areas because of the high water levels and the resulting impacts to farmland, infrastructure and the environment.

Under the new regulations, to be considered for an approval, drainage works must have an adequate outlet. The Quill Lakes are not an adequate outlet because of the flooding and environmental impacts. The Water Security Agency will not grant approvals for works which contribute water to the Quill Lakes.  Drainage works may be able to gain an approval if the impacts related to flooding, water quality and habitat loss are addressed while ensuring water from any project in the area does not add to the Quill Lakes. 

Three Options for Responsible Drainage in the Quill Lakes Basin

WSA is focused on drainage works around the Quill Lakes that are creating the most significant impact. Landowners in these areas will be contacted to begin the process of either obtaining an approval or closing drainage works. No new drainage into the lakes will be approved and eventually all drainage works into the Quill Lakes will have to be approved or closed. This means landowners have a few options, including:

1. Apply for a drainage approval to consolidate existing drainage works

Existing unapproved works require an approval. This approval will allow drainage on parts of the land, but require building storage on the land that can hold the water drained so that it does not enter the Quill Lakes. It may be possible to alter drainage patterns by concentrating water into sloughs, effectively consolidating drainage. Consolidation will require approval if it moves water on to another legal parcel even if you own that parcel. Consolidation will usually be done on the scale of a few quarters.

2. Apply for an approval for drainage works by adding flow control gates 

This approval will require gates be installed and remain closed until the Quill Lakes have been lowered enough so that more water can be added without creating adverse impacts. Given the current high water levels in the Quill Lakes, it may be many years before such gates could be opened.

3. Close drainage works with ditch blocks

The last option for landowners would be to close their drainage works by installing ditch blocks. Closing drainage works restores the natural conditions. This would then help to lower the Quill Lakes by storing water that would normally drain into the lakes. Leaving sloughs in their natural condition will result in the sloughs being the evaporating bodies of water, rather than the Quill Lakes, and will prevent water from getting to the lakes, which will eventually result in lower lake levels.

How do I apply for drainage approval in the Quill Lakes basin?

  1. You will receive a letter from WSA and a representative will contact you to work towards either an approval or closure of your drainage ditches. WSA will provide a list of qualified technical people who can help in the preparation of a drainage application.
  2. Work with this qualified technical person to create a sketch plan which identifies the following on your land: wetlands, natural drainage channels, constructed drainage channels, drainage works and proposed mitigation options (consolidated and gated flow controls) that will be built.
  3. Work with the qualified technical person to complete the application. You will need to provide written evidence of land control where the landowner is not an applicant but the project has an impact on their land.
  4. Submit the completed application form, the sketch plan, written evidence of land control and the non-refundable application fee.

Flood Mitigation Report

The Water Security Agency engaged KGS Group Consulting Engineers to produce a flood mitigation report. The report details various flood mitigation options, describes the models used to simulate the options, and provides model results. Each option was evaluated using an evaluation model.

The report was a large PDF file, so we have broken it into chapters to make it easier to view online:

Introduction – Pages i to ix (Executive Summary and Table of Contents)
Chapter 1 – Pages 1 to 7 (Flooding Concerns on the Quill Lakes)
Chapter 2 – Pages 8 to 26 (Numerical Models)
Chapter 3 – Pages 27 to 37 (Existing Flood Conditions)
Chapter 4 – Pages 38 to 62 (Flood Mitigation Options)
Chapter 5 – Pages 63 to 67 (Numerical Model Assessment of Flood Mitigation Options)
Chapter 6 – Pages 68 to 78 (Cost Comparisons of Flood Mitigation Options)
Chapter 7 – Pages 79 to 84 (Comparison Matrix of Flood Mitigation Options)
Chapter 8 – Pages 85 to 86 (Conclusions)
Chapter 9 – Page 87 (References)
Plate 1 to Plate 5
Plate 6 to Plate 27
Appendix A (Sample Runoff Calculation)
Appendix B (Review of Landowner Proposal Plan B)


For further information about the Quill Lakes, please contact: