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Sask. water levels have agency on alert

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SASKATCHEWAN has the potential for heavy runoff this spring, but it’s too soon to tell whether that will translate into flooding downstream in Manitoba.

Earlier this week, Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency announced there is a possibility of above-normal spring runoff in most portions of the upper Assiniboine River, Qu’Appelle River and upper Souris River basins, all of which drain into the lower Assiniboine in Manitoba. The prediction was based upon above-average precipitation this winter as well as above-average moisture within the Saskatchewan snowpack.

Those factors alone, however, do not necessarily translate into flooding, which is also affected by factors such as soil moisture, water levels at freeze-up and the rate of snowmelt.

"The Water Security Agency is paying close attention to these factors and will assess the situation as we approach spring," the agency announced.

In Manitoba, soil moisture levels were low during the fall and river levels ranged from average to below average. The Red River in Winnipeg, for example, sits at normal winter ice levels.

Manitoba will issue its first flood forecast before the end of February, said provincial spokesman Paul White. But the province has already started preparing for high flows on the upper Assiniboine by releasing water from the Shellmouth Reservoir, also known as Lake of the Prairies.

Water from this release will affect properties along the upper Assiniboine and will reach Winnipeg within two weeks, but may not affect water levels in the city, thanks to the low levels on the lower Assiniboine and the higher channel capacity along the lower portion of its course.

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