Water Security Agency is advising residents and recreational users, such as snowmobilers and fishers, of potential changes in ice conditions on the South Saskatchewan River downstream of Gardiner Dam in the upcoming weeks, triggered by reduced outflows from Lake Diefenbaker.
Caution is advised, as other than the crossing maintained by the Ministry of Highways at Riverhurst, there are no official maintained ice crossings on the South Saskatchewan River. Any resident crossing the River is doing so at their own risk.
With inflows into Lake Diefenbaker currently below normal and the expectation for a below normal snowmelt runoff from the prairie portion of the drainage basin, outflows from Lake Diefenbaker are being reduced over the final week of February and the first week of March.
This operational decision is required to keep the reservoir at near normal levels through March, as well as best ensure Lake Diefenbaker can meet irrigation needs and desirable recreational levels through the spring and summer. The reduction will result in water levels and ice covers on the South Saskatchewan River dropping from .5 to 1.0 metres.
While it is much too early to accurately forecast summer levels for Lake Diefenbaker and flows on the South Saskatchewan River, as they are largely influenced by rainfall events over the eastern slopes of the Rookies and foothill areas, the mountain snowpack over the headwaters in Alberta is currently near normal. Therefore, at this time, the expectation is for near normal lake levels in summer 2019 provided southern Alberta receives near normal precipitation.