Part of Drought

Drought – Current conditions

News and updates about the current drought conditions in Alberta.

Latest updates

Many areas in Alberta are dealing with drought conditions, particularly in the southern part of the province. The Alberta government will continue to carefully monitor snowpack, precipitation, river levels and other key data to ensure drought conditions are well understood and all water users and Albertans have the information they need to be prepared. 

Alberta is currently in stage 4 (out of 5) in its water shortage management response plan. 
 

  • Advisories (updated March 28, 2024)

    There are currently 51 water shortage advisories in place for select water management areas across Alberta. It’s likely that these advisories will remain in place over the winter months.

  • Water supply outlook (updated March 11, 2024)

    Based on monthly snowpack survey data (collected from February 1 to June 1), Alberta produces a water supply outlook that estimates the total runoff volume for 20 locations in southern and central Alberta. The water supply outlook is typically published during the second week of the month.

    The March water supply outlook is a long-term river volume forecast for the period from March through September.

    The above normal amount of precipitation that fell in February has resulted in an increase in the March-to-September forecasted volumes for all basins in the South Saskatchewan River Basin. Highlights of the March water supply outlook are below:

    • Milk River basin – Still forecasted to be much below average but the forecast at Eastern Crossing (where the river crosses back into the United States) has increased by 10% from last month.
    • Oldman River basin – Increase in forecasted volumes ranging from 4 to 10% vs the February forecast but still expected to be below average, except for the Belly River which is much below average.
    • Bow River basin – Forecasted volumes increased 6 to 11% vs February. Flow volumes expected to range from below average to average.
    • Red Deer River basin – Forecasted flow volumes expected to be slightly below average to average. Dickson Dam forecast increased by 1% vs February forecast. Outlook for Red Deer River at Red Deer is unchanged.
    • North Saskatchewan River basin – Forecasted flows are much below average. Lake Abraham forecast has gone up 4% and Brazeau has gone down 2%. Forecasted river flows in Edmonton are unchanged.
  • Snowpack (updated March 11, 2024)

    Alberta conducts mountain snowpack surveys monthly from February 1 to June 1 (the Milk River basin is also surveyed in early January). The data is published monthly in the water supply outlook.

    In addition to the monthly snowpack surveys, the Alberta River Basins web application and the Alberta Rivers app provides automated snow pillow data from 18 sites, mostly in the mountains and foothills.

    March snowpack survey results

    Of the 33 March snow surveys completed by Environment and Protected Areas staff, 22 were either below average or much below average, and 11 were average or above average. This marks an improvement compared to February, when all but 2 were below average or much below average.

    Oldman River basin – 5 of the 7 locations surveyed are now within the bottom portion of the normal range. The remaining 2 locations are approximately 80 mm below the normal range.

    Bow River basin– 7 of the 21 locations surveyed are now within the normal range. 10 sites are between 30 and 40 mm below the normal range, and 2 sites (Mount Odlum and Three Isle Lake) were approximately 100 mm below the normal range.

    Red Deer River basin – The two snow survey locations in the Red Deer basin were both average.

    North Saskatchewan River basin– 2 of the 3 sites surveyed were average, while the remaining site (Marmot-Jasper) was much below average.

  • River levels

    Alberta’s river monitoring network includes over 450 gauges that report near real-time data via the Alberta River Basins web application and the Alberta Rivers app during the open water season. River flow data during the winter months is less accessible but periodic updates will be provided below.

    Latest winter measurements

    • Milk River at Milk River – On January 25, the flow was measured to be 0.11 m³/s, the fourth lowest January measurement in the last 25 years.
    • Oldman River at Range Road 13A – on March 4, the flow was measured to be 1.82 m³/s, the 2nd lowest March measurement in the last 16 years.
    • South Saskatchewan River at Medicine Hat – On January 23, the flow was measured to be 65.2 m³/s, the ninth lowest January measurement in the last 25 years.
    • Willow Creek near Claresholm – On March 4, the flow was measured to be 0.54 m³/s, the 6th lowest March measurement in the last 25 years.
    • Sheep River at Okotoks – On March 6, the flow was measured to be 0.74 m³/s, the 3rd lowest March measurement in the last 25 years.
    • Bow River near the Mouth – On March 6, the flow was measured to be 39.9 m³/s, the lowest March measurement in the last 24 years.
    • Elbow River at Sarcee Bridge – On February 26, the flow was measured to be 2.76 m³/s, the fifth lowest winter measure in the past 25 years.
    • Red Deer River below Burnt Timber Creek – On February 26, the flow was measured to be 4.35 m³/s, the fourth lowest winter measurement in the past 15 years.
    • Red Deer River at Drumheller – On March 5, the flow was measured to be 15.9 m³/s, the third lowest March measurement in the last 25 years.
    • Battle River at Ponoka – On January 25, the flow was measured to be 0.08 m³/s, the fifth lowest January measurement in the last 25 years.
    • Athabasca River below Fort McMurray - On February 13, the flow was measured to be 151 m³/s, the ninth lowest winter measurement in the last 25 years.
    • Smoky River at Watino – On March 12, the flow was measured to be 35 m³/s, which is near the median value for measurements taken in March over the last 24 years.
    • Wapiti River near Grande Prairie – On March 13, the flow was measured to be 6.3 m³/s, the lowest March measurement in the last 24 years.
  • Reservoir levels (updated April 4, 2024)

    Water levels in some southern Alberta reservoirs owned and operated by the Alberta government are well below normal for this time of year.

    Oldman Reservoir – Current storage is 32%. Normal for this time of year is between 61% and 81%.

    St. Mary Reservoir - Current storage is 22%. Normal for this time of year is between 51% and 77%.

    Pine Coulee Reservoir - Current storage is 32%. Normal for this time of year is between 74% and 91%.

    Waterton Reservoir - Current storage is 72%. Normal for this time of year is between 56% and 69%.

    Gleniffer Reservoir (Dickson Dam) - Current storage is 44%. Normal for this time of year is between 46% and 63%.

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

  • Soil moisture

    Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation produces a soil moisture report periodically during the winter months, with frequency increasing during the growing season.

Get more right on your phone

Advisories, snowpack and river conditions, reservoir data, forecast details and more are available right on your smartphone via the Alberta Rivers app.

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Presentations and photo gallery

Drought risk and management updates

•    January 2024 presentation | View PDF

Slideshow: Impacts of water shortage in southern Alberta

Contact

Connect with Environment and Protected Areas’ Outreach Services:

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-3773 (in Alberta)
Email: [email protected]