Water Supply Outlook March 2017

Updated: March 9, 2017

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

Milk River basin
  • Average for Milk River at Milk River and Milk River at Eastern Crossing
  • Above average for Milk River at Western Crossing
Oldman River basin
  • Average for Oldman River near Brocket
  • Slightly above average for Oldman River at Lethbridge
  • Above average for St. Mary River, Belly River and Waterton River
Bow River basin
  • Below average for Highwood River
  • Average for Lake Minnewanka, Kananaskis River, Bow River at Calgary and Elbow River
  • Slightly above average for Bow River at Banff
  • Above average for Spray River
Red Deer River basin
  • Average for Red Deer River at Dickson Dam
  • Below average for Red Deer River at Red Deer
North Saskatchewan River basin
  • Average for Lake Abraham
  • Much below average for 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 March 1, 2017:

  • Oldman River basin: Generally average to above average, ranging from 80% at Allison Pass to 189% at Lee Creek (based on 7 sites).
  • Bow River basin: Generally below average to average, ranging from 79% at Lost Creek to 118% at Chateau Lawn (based on 21 sites).
  • Red Deer, North Saskatchewan, Athabasca River basins:

    Red Deer River basin: (2 sites surveyed) Gable Mountain at 88% and McConnell Creek at 105%.

    North Saskatchewan River basin: Generally below average, ranging from 71% at Southesk to 98% at Nordegg (based on 5 sites).

    Athabasca River basin: (3 sites surveyed) 122% at Hinton, 81% at Sunwapta and 77% at Marmot-Jasper.

  • Upper Peace River basin in British Columbia: as indicated in British Columbia's Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin

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

Plains Spring Snowmelt Runoff Forecasts

Conditions are variable across the province, please refer to the map in the Plains Runoff Forecast section of our Maps and Data Summaries webpage.

Plains snowpack

  • Map of Snow course measurements taken at the end of February and the beginning of March in many areas of central and northern Alberta. Cypress Hills snow measurements were taken in mid-February.
  • Environment Canada map of satellite estimation of plains snow water equivalent (SWE) as of March 3, 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 February 28, 2017 is available here.

Long Lead Precipitation Outlooks

Environment Canada (issued on February 28, 2017): Precipitation is forecast to be above normal for the province except normal in northern Alberta and temperatures are forecast to be normal in Alberta for the March through May 2017 period.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (issued on February 16, 2017): An equal chance of below normal, normal or above normal temperatures and above normal precipitation in the south of Alberta for March through May 2017.

Climate indicators: The NOAA reported on February 9, 2017 that ENSO-neutral conditions have returned and are favoured to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 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