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Water levels expected to rise in Saskatchewan due to heavy rainfall in Alberta

Widespread heavy rainfall in Alberta is expected to impact Saskatchewan water flows and water levels in the coming days, including at Lake Diefenbaker. Moises Canales-Lavigne / Global News

Reports this spring have shown that water levels at some Saskatchewan bodies of water are lower compared to previous years, including Lake Diefenbaker.

While that may concern some residents and visitors to the province, there is a weather event this week in a neighbouring province that may wash away those worries.

Saskatchewan’s water levels are expected to change in the coming days as southern Alberta is experiencing a low-pressure system this week that will bring heavy rainfall to the region.

According to a release from the Saskatchewan government, Alberta is anticipating accumulations of 50 mm of rain over southern Alberta and 100 mm along the foothill areas by Wednesday.

Read more: Some areas of southern Alberta bracing for heavy rainfall

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As a result, the government of Saskatchewan is warning the public that significant increases in water flows are expected in the province.

“While the full impact of this weather system is not yet known, it will affect one or more of the major subbasins contributing to the South and North Saskatchewan rivers, resulting in significant increases in flows within Saskatchewan on both systems later this week,” said the release from the government. “Water levels at Lake Diefenbaker will also be increasing significantly.”

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Patrick Boyle, a spokesperson with the Water Security Agency (WSA), says the reason Lake Diefenbaker has seen lower-than-normal water levels this spring is because the mountain runoff is about two to three weeks behind. He adds this is due to a well-above-normal snowpack from colder temperatures and a later ending to snowfall events in the Rocky Mountains, which feed the lake with water once the snow melts.

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Boyle says another contributing factor was lower levels of precipitation this spring in Alberta and dry conditions over the past couple years.

Read more: Moe returns from U.S. after meetings to gather support for Saskatchewan energy, mining

However, this week’s forecast is expected to change water levels significantly.

“We are going to see a three-metre increase in the lake right now,” Boyle explained. “It will raise it quite a bit, but that full impact won’t be known until we see what happen with those subbasins and how they contribute to the flow.”

The province says they will increase outflows from Lake Diefenbaker at Gardiner Dam in stages this week to adjust to the anticipated increase in water levels.

WSA officials are not sure at this time if the Gardiner Dam spillway will need to be utilized to manage this weather event “given that storage is available in Lake Diefenbaker.”

Read more: Saskatchewan spring runoff largely complete or well underway for much of province: WSA

The agency is warning the public to exercise caution around fast-moving water and to prepare for higher flows and water levels if they have infrastructure located along these waterways.

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“Water enters Saskatchewan in two different ways — from the North and the South Saskatchewan rivers. So we watch kind of both of those areas,” said Boyle.

“It’ll still be below what people probably normally would be used to for this time of year. But the inflows after this event, after July 1, we feel they’re going to be pretty strong.”

The WSA adds while widespread flooding in Saskatchewan is not currently predicted, residents concerned about flooding issues are asked to look into the agency’s Emergency Flood Damage Reduction Program, which provides assistance to implement emergency flood protection measures in the province.

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