Things could still change but at this point the provincial Water Security Agency (WSA) is not expecting any heightened risk of above normal spring runoff for Saskatchewan in 2024.
Released Wednesday, the WSA’s 2023 Conditions at Freeze-up Report said hot and dry conditions through the summer months have left most areas of the province heading into the winter with below to well below normal soil moisture levels.
Given the dryness, the bigger concern is not with the spring runoff and the possibility of flooding but the potential for surface water supply issues in the province’s southwest if winter snowfall is below normal. In some cases, an above normal snowpack would be required just to stave off extremely dry conditions, it added.
The Weather Network’s winter forecast, also released today, indicated the likelihood of a generally warmer- and drier-than-normal season for most of the province.
However, the most recent precipitation in the province – which fell as both rain and snow in early November - is not captured in the WSA’s report. The precipitation improved soil moisture conditions across most of the southeast, although conditions are still generally considered dry. The exception to this is the Regina area where considerable precipitation was received that would have improved fall soil moisture conditions to near normal.
Across the southeast, the added moisture could potentially create a frost layer that may reduce infiltration in the spring.
Meanwhile, the impact of an early snowfall event that occurred across much of southern and east central Saskatchewan remains largely unknown. The snowfall was followed by below normal temperatures, leaving many areas snow covered. The WSA report said two runoff scenarios could emerge next year because of this precipitation: increased soil moisture or higher runoff flows. Snow surveys in February 2024 will help determine if the moisture will infiltrate into the soil or run off toward reservoirs, the report said.
The WSA’s initial Spring Runoff Outlook for 2024 will be issued in early February.