Water Supply Outlook for Alberta

February 2002

Mountain Snowpack

Snow accumulations in the mountains as of February 1 are near normal values for this time of the year with the exception of the headwaters of the Waterton and St. Mary River basins, which have below-normal accumulations (Table 1). The mountain snowpack is an important source of water supply to reservoirs in the province. Typically the accumulation of snow at this time of the year accounts for nearly two-thirds of the seasonal total.

Five snow course measurements were made in the Oldman River basin during the last week of January, with values ranging from 61 to 96% of average (Table 2). Despite below-average accumulations for this time of the year in the basin, a storm in early January brought significant precipitation with the majority falling as rain. Snow accumulations are significantly above values observed last year at this time.

Thirteen snow course measurements were made at the end of January in the Bow River basin with values ranging from 81 to 127% of average (Table 3). Ten of the thirteen sites are located above 6000 feet and all indicate average to above-average snow accumulations. The three sites located below 6000 feet (Bow River, Chateau Lawn and Pipestone Upper) indicate below-average accumulations. A snow storm at the end of January provided significant snowfall in the mountains, particularly in the Kananaskis and Highwood River headwaters. As of February 1, eleven of the thirteen snow course sites recorded snow water equivalents higher than last year's seasonal total.

Five snow course measurements were completed in the headwaters of the Red Deer, North Saskatchewan and Athabasca River basins during the last week of January (Table 4). Snow accumulations ranged from 58 to 104% of average at the five sites. Snow accumulations in these basins reflect the same pattern as that observed in the Bow River basin. The higher elevation snow course sites indicated average snow accumulations while the lower elevation site (Sunwapta Falls - elevation 4600 feet) was much-below-average at 58% of the long-term average.

Snow course measurements are completed monthly. At twelve of the snow course sites, real-time snow accumulation can be monitored using snow pillows. The snow pillow plots can be found on the department website in the Weekly River Report.

Plains Snowpack

Snowpack is below-average in most Plains areas of the province. Additional information on plains area snowpack will appear in the March Water Supply Outlook as snow course measurements will be conducted at the end of February. A map showing snow water equivalent of Plains area snowpack is available from the Environment Canada website located at:

For technical enquires about this web page please contact Alberta Environment - Environmental Management Water Management Operations Branch at AENV-WebWS@gov.ab.ca