Spring runoff forecast underlines concerns about dryness

The Saskatchewan Water Security Agency’s preliminary forecast for spring runoff underlines the concerns about dryness in the heart of the prairie region.

Soils in southern areas were dry at freeze up with ample storage available in wetlands after a record dry summer in parts of southern Saskatchewan and below normal fall precipitation.

“With dry fall conditions and below average winter precipitation to date, it would take well above average precipitation in February, March, and April to produce an above average spring runoff within southern areas of the province,” says the agency.

With below or well below normal runoff expected, it is anticipated that these water supply shortages will intensify and expand across southern Saskatchewan. This could create some water supply issues for municipalities and irrigators if conditions remain dry into the summer months.

Saskatchewan Water Security Agency preliminary spring runoff outlook, February 8, 2018

(source: Saskatchewan Water Stewardship Agency)

The dryness will likely be a factor in some spring seeding decisions — a topic we discussed with Dwight Nichol of DLN Agventures at Gravelbourg, Sask., on RealAg Radio this week.

With pea and lentil acres decreasing due to India’s tariffs, Nichol suggests the dryness will make growers reluctant to replace those acres with canola.

The lack of subsoil moisture, especially compared to last year, “is going to weigh on people’s minds, for sure,” he says.

“Durum is the other one that’s concentrated in the drought area that I think could easily gain back acres this year. It’s a little cheaper, a little lower risk and perceived to be a little more drought tolerant,” notes Nichol in the conversation below.

While southern Alberta has received plenty of snow this winter, most of the prairies (in yellow) is at less than 85 percent of average precipitation, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Drought Monitor. Parts of Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan have received less than 40 percent of average precipitation since November 1st.

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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