Lethbridge flood risk low so far this spring as city officials monitor drought risk

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WATCH: Normally the month of May is when the word ‘flood’ starts popping up as a concern, but the City of Lethbridge’s emergency preparedness manager says ‘drought’ is another word starting to creep in while monitoring water levels this spring. Danica Ferris has more. – May 17, 2021

The month of May is normally when the word “flood” starts creeping into the minds of those in southern Alberta, but this spring, the word “drought” is also on the radar.

Read more: How to prepare for potential floods in Alberta this rain season

City of Lethbridge emergency preparedness manager Luke Palmer said he has one eye on the province’s snowpack and the other on below-average water levels in the region.

“We do our best to make sure that we’re using the tools offered by the province. We’re monitoring flooding conditions in terms of the river and what’s coming from the mountains but also what drought possibilities might exist as well,” Palmer said Monday.

“When we talk about flooding, we obviously have to talk about drought because it’s the other end of the spectrum for sure. Just like we monitor the conditions in the mountains and in the river, we monitor drought conditions too, and that’s in terms of what our water retention ponds have in terms of available water for things like fighting fires and just general living in the city.”

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Read more: May rainfall causing some concern for overland flooding in southern Alberta

Global News weather data illustrates just how dry this spring has been so far in southern Alberta.

Last month, Lethbridge saw just 19.2 mm of precipitation, short of the April average of 28 mm. The first 17 days of May have brought only 2.3 mm of rain, compared to the monthly average of 49.9 mm.

The region has some moisture in the upcoming forecast — rain that Palmer says would be welcome.

“If those drought conditions do continue, it’s really hard on the economy,” he said. “Especially here in the south because we are so agriculturally driven.”

Monitoring data from Alberta Rivers had the depth of the Oldman River at just 0.351 metres on Monday afternoon, but Palmer says the expectation is that could increase rapidly as warmer temperatures stick around.

“Anyone driving by is going to see a lot of exposed shoreline and just not a whole lot of water depth there,” he said.

“But we do know that some of that snowpack is taking its time to melt, so we are below average right now, but once temperatures start picking up in the mountain regions, we will start seeing that river going up more.”

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Read more: New disc golf course opening in Lethbridge as demand for sport booms

Palmer said whatever way things end up this spring, both the city and province will issue notifications and warnings when necessary to keep residents up to date.

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