Canada: Water surpluses to emerge in much of Northern Ontario

24 October 2018

The 12-month outlook for Canada through June 2019 indicates vast, isolated pockets of intense water deficit in the country, particularly in the east.

Intense deficits are forecast to encompass large blocks in: eastern Quebec from the Caniapiscau Reservoir to the Gulf of St. Lawrence; around Lake Mistassini in central Quebec; Ontario’s eastern border; northeastern Manitoba along Hudson Bay, in the center of the province north of Lake Winnipeg, and in the southeastern corner surrounding the city of Winnipeg; southern Saskatchewan including Regina; the Upper and Middle Athabasca River region and northwestern Alberta; surrounding Prince George, British Columbia and the Skeena River region in the northwest.

Areas of surplus include exceptional surpluses in northwestern Saskatchewan around Churchill Lake westward to Fort McMurray, Alberta, and surpluses of varying intensity in southeastern British Columbia.

The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail.

The forecast through December indicates that the extent of exceptional deficits in the east will shrink somewhat. Areas of varying deficit include Newfoundland, much of northern Quebec (QC) into Newfoundland and Labrador, from Lake Mistassini in western QC past the border into Ontario (ON), north of Ottawa (in ON), west of Sherbrooke (in QC), and New Brunswick (NB). Moderate to severe surpluses will emerge in much of northern ON, but intense deficits will persist in the northwest.

Deficits will diminish considerably in the southern portions of the Prairie Provinces, with some moderate deficits lingering in southern Manitoba and emerging along the North Saskatchewan River. The pattern of anomalies across the northern portion of the Prairie Provinces will remain much the same as in the prior three months, though intense deficits will emerge in northern Saskatchewan. Deficits in the Upper and Middle Athabasca River watershed in Alberta will downgrade from exceptional to severe. In British Columbia (BC), surpluses will continue to emerge in the southeast and will increase in the north from Fort St. John west past Williston Lake.

From January through March, the overall pattern of anomalies is expected to be similar to the forecast for October through December. However, deficits will nearly disappear in NB and around Ottawa and Sherbrooke, will downgrade somewhat near Lake Mistassini (QC), and will shrink in the Skeena River region of western BC, transitioning to moderate surplus in the Lower Skeena watershed. Back east, moderate surpluses will emerge around Montreal.

The forecast for the final three months – April through June – indicates widespread, primarily moderate deficits throughout much of the country, and moderate surpluses in QC east of the Manicouagan Reservoir.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

The British Columbia lands ministry is asking agricultural, municipal, and industrial bodies in central and northern areas of the province to voluntarily restrict their water use due to dry conditions ranging from “dry” level 3 droughts to “extremely dry” level 4 droughts. Officials are hoping that groundwater and soil moisture can be restored before freezing occurs, which may prevent drought from continuing into next year.

The government of Nova Scotia is buying bottled and non-potable water and delivering it by the tanker truckload to people whose wells have run dry in its drought-stricken southwestern region. Each truckload of the bottled drinking water costs roughly CAD $6,000 (USD $4,599).

Newfoundland and Labrador farmers reflected on the 2018 growing season as one of extremes, swinging from snow in June to heat warnings and dry stretches in August, to overnight frost in September. Drought left irrigation ponds dry, delayed plantings, and reduced harvests. The president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture said that wild weather patterns certainly caused large losses in income, adding that the state will need to consider artesian, deep water wells, and other strategies to deal with drought conditions.

The Windsor-Essex region of Ontario received a record amount of rain one day late last month, totaling 47.5mm (1.87 inches), when a storm doused the counties, cut power to 2,500 people, and prompted tornado warnings.

Nearly 13 inches of snow fell on Calgary - Alberta’s largest city and home to over a million people - on October 2nd, setting an October daily record. The snowstorm was Calgary’s seventh snowiest day of all time and the earliest record-breaker in the top ten. The storm caused a 30-car pileup in which one person was killed.

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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