May 19, 2017 11:52 am

Snowpack in southern Alberta mountains above average

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Environment and Parks is keeping a close watch on the white stuff. Southern Alberta isn't the only place that saw more snow this year than years past. As Quinn Campbell reports, what melts way up high has a big impact on the areas down below.

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Fisherman, farmers, ecologists and even city officials have one thing in common – they rely on the information Scott Campbell’s team gathers in the mountains.

Winter brought a fair amount of snow to the mountains and Campbell’s team, part of Alberta Environment and Parks, keeps a close watch on the spring thaw.

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“This [information] will go to the river forecasting centre in Edmonton where we have hydrologists that use this data and determine how much water that’s within the entire basin and our primary users are the dam managers. The Oldman Dam is downstream of this site and they’ll be looking at this snowpack,” Campbell said.

What melts in the mountains can have a big impact on the areas below. Campbell and his crew said the snow depths this year are a far cry from the last few very dry years in southern Alberta.

“I think we are sitting at about 120 per cent to 130 per cent here right now and last year this time we were probably around 75 per cent or less,” Campbell added.

The forecast is based on a number of elements taken from the snow; the depth and weight provide the water content.

There are nine different locations in the Oldman River Basin that are surveyed, on average, six times a year.

“We do the same sites every time and do the same spots at the same time of the month. We have a 10-day window each month that we can do this in so we have continuity in our data,” Campbell said.

The level of snow in the mountains is only one indicator of potential flooding, but it does help plan for the possibility in high-risk areas.

For irrigation users, fisheries and water treatment plants who have dealt with very low levels in the past, the news of higher levels might be music to their ears.

“Shouldn’t be any water shortages this year,” Campbell said.

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