Water Supply Outlook February 2017

Updated: February 7, 2017

Mountain runoff forecasts (natural volumes for March to September 2017)

Milk River basin
  • Average for Milk River at Western Crossing
  • Below average for Milk River at Milk River and Milk River at Eastern Crossing
Oldman River basin
  • Below average for the basin
Bow River basin
  • Below average to average for the basin
Red Deer River basin
  • Below average for the Red Deer River at Dickson Dam and Red Deer River at Red Deer
North Saskatchewan River basin
  • Below average for the Bighorn Reservoir, Brazeau Reservoir and North Saskatchewan River at Edmonton

Precipitation can have a major impact on water supply between now and the end of September. The forecasts above assume that precipitation over the remainder of the winter period and through the summer will be normal. The range of possible precipitation scenarios is large however, and as a result, probable range forecasts and a minimal precipitation forecast of natural runoff volume are also provided for each individual basin. Since more information becomes known over time, forecast ranges will narrow. Streamflow volume forecasts are updated monthly from February to May, and again in July.

Check our Forecaster's Comments throughout the month for updated information regarding runoff conditions.

Mountain snowpack

Snow accumulations measured in the mountains as of February 1, 2017:

  • Oldman River basin: generally much below average to below average, ranging from 50% at Allison Pass to 139% at Lee Creek (based on 7 sites)
  • Bow River basin: generally below average, ranging from 58% at Lost Creek to 105% at Chateau Lawn and Larch Valley (based on 21 sites)
  • Red Deer, North Saskatchewan, Athabasca River basins:

    Red Deer River Basin: there are no snow sites this month within the boundary of the Red Deer River Basin – the closest sites are Limestone Ridge (79%) - North Saskatchewan Basin, Cuthead Lake (95%) and Skoki Lodge (99%) – Bow River Basin

  • North Saskatchewan River Basin: much below average, 62% at Southesk, 79% at Limestone Ridge and 81% at Nigel Creek ( 3 sites only)

    Athabasca River Basin: much below average, 53% at Sunwapta Falls and 66% at Marmot-Jasper (2 sites only)

  • Upper Peace River basin in British Columbia: as indicated in British Columbia's Snowpack and Water Supply Outlook

Mountain snowpack is an important source of water supply to reservoirs in the spring. Accumulation at this time of year typically accounts for nearly two-thirds of the seasonal total.

Plains snowpack

  • Snow course measurements were taken in late-January in the Cypress Hills. Detailed information on plains area snowpack will be available in March as snow course measurements will be conducted near the start of the month.
  • Environment Canada map of satellite estimation of plains snow water equivalent (SWE) as of February 1, 2017 is shown here.
  • Alberta Agriculture publishes maps of modelled plains snow accumulations and accumulations as compared to normal.


Contoured maps of precipitation amounts and as a percent of normal for the past month and for current and recent seasons are available here. Maps of precipitation amounts for the most recent day, week and month to date are available here.

Soil Moisture

Alberta Agriculture models soil moisture for non-mountainous, agricultural areas of Alberta. Modelled soil moisture compared to average as of January 31, 2017 is available here.

Long Lead Precipitation Outlooks

Environment Canada (issued on January 31, 2017): Normal temperature for the province. Normal precipitation for northern and east-central Alberta and above normal precipitation for the rest of the province for the February through April 2017 period.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (issued on January 19, 2017): Above normal precipitation and below normal temperature for extreme southern Alberta for February through April 2017.

Climate indicators: The NOAA reported on January 12, 2017 that a transition to ENSO-neutral is expected to occur by February 2017, with ENSO-neutral then continuing through the first half of 2017.

Note that forecasting weather for such a long time period into the future is very difficult, and so the historical accuracy has been variable, dependent on location and time period, and is often low, more so for precipitation than temperature. Environment Canada provides an assessment of their forecast method's historical accuracy on their website.

Reservoir storage

Water storage volumes in the major irrigation and hydroelectric reservoirs of the Milk, Oldman, Bow, Red Deer North Saskatchewan, and Athabasca River basins is updated each weekday and is available in the Provincial Reservoir Storage Summary.


Background information on the Water Supply Outlook is available in Frequently Asked Questions

Media Contact:
Communications Division, Alberta Environment and Parks
Phone: (780) 427-8636