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Burntwood, Lower Churchill, and Nelson rivers #5

Spring 2022 water outlook for northern Manitoba rivers

We provide water level and flow outlooks so communities have information on water conditions on the Churchill, Nelson, and Burntwood rivers during the spring melt.*

Map of northern Manitoba showing Churchill, Burntwood, and Nelson rivers with control structures and generating stations.

Map of Churchill, Burntwood, and Nelson rivers with control structures and generating stations.

Enlarge image: Map of northern Manitoba showing Churchill, Burntwood, and Nelson rivers with control structures and generating stations.

Churchill River (Southern Indian Lake to Hudson Bay)

Spring melt started in May with flows lower than last year but above average.

The upper portion of the Churchill River watershed received above average snowpack while the lower portion near the river mouth has average snowpack. Current inflows from Saskatchewan to Southern Indian Lake are about 51,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) (1,451 cubic metres per second (cms)) and have started to rise from spring melt. The level of Southern Indian Lake is higher than normal for this time of year at 845.5 ft (257.71 m) and is expected to begin increasing shortly. Outflows through Missi Control Structure have been gradually increased to 10,000 cfs (286 cms) and will continue increasing gradually over the next few weeks to make room for spring meltwater and reduce the need for higher flows later on. River flows are above average for this time of year.

Burntwood River

Much of the Churchill River flow is diverted out of Southern Indian Lake through the Churchill River Diversion via the Notigi Control Structure to the Rat and Burntwood rivers. Flows through Notigi are being reduced from 32,500 cfs (923 cms) to 27,500 cfs (779 cms) today to reduce flows on the Burntwood River and into Split Lake during the spring melt. Further Notigi flow reductions are expected later in May.

Nelson River

Nelson River flows rapidly transitioning from well below average to well above average over the next few weeks.

Recent heavy precipitation across southern Manitoba is flowing into Lake Winnipeg and is starting to flow downstream through the Nelson River. Jenpeg outflows are being increased to accommodate this water. Jenpeg flows are being increased from 73,000 cfs (2,069 cms) to 80,000 cfs (2,265 cms) today with frequent large increases planned over the next few weeks; Kelsey flows are at 82,000 cfs (2,332 cms) and expected to rise to 119,000 cfs (3,370 cms) by the end of May. Split Lake water level, currently at 549.0 ft (167.3 m), is expected to rise about 2 ft by the end of May to elevation 551.0 ft (167.9 m) with additional rise forecasted in June.

*Spring flows depend on how long it takes for snow to melt (i.e. warm temperatures will cause a fast melt and higher water flows; while cooler temperatures will cause a slow melt and moderate flows for a longer period of time). Conditions can also change rapidly if a large rainfall or snowfall event occurs. Outlook information will be updated as conditions change.

The Outlook is based on a combination of current and forecasted weather data from Environment and Climate Change Canada; recent and historic streamflow conditions based on both federal and Manitoba Hydro data; Manitoba Hydro regulation models for Reindeer Lake and Southern Indian Lake; snow surveys conducted by Manitoba Hydro; and snowpack estimates from satellite data.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact:

Dale Hutchison
Waterway Community Engagement