Burntwood, Lower Churchill, and Nelson rivers #1

Spring water outlook for northern Manitoba rivers

This article was published in April 2023 and may be outdated.

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 Churchill and Nelson rivers with control structures and generating stations.

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

Enlarge image: Map of Churchill and Nelson rivers with control structures and generating stations.

Churchill River (Southern Indian Lake to Hudson Bay)

Spring melt expected to start in early May with flows lower than last year but above average. Forecasts of spring flows are highly variable at this point in time and will be heavily dependent on weather conditions over the next two months. The upper portion of the Churchill River watershed received above average snowpack while the lower portion near the river mouth has near average snowpack. Current inflows from Saskatchewan to Southern Indian Lake (SIL) are about 740 cubic metres per second (cms) (26,100 cubic feet per second (cfs)). The level of SIL is close to average for this time of year at 257.5 m (844.8 ft) ASL and is expected to begin increasing shortly. Churchill River flows at Churchill are estimated to be 120 cms (4,200 cfs) and are forecast to slowly increase over the next two weeks in response to snow melt from recent warm conditions. Flows at CR30 are forecast to peak in early May to mid June depending upon the timing of local snow melt and upstream releases from Southern Indian Lake. Under average conditions, flows are forecasted to peak at approximately 1,380 cms (48,700 cfs) by mid May.

Outflows through Missi Control Structure are currently 45 cms (1,600 cfs), following licence minimum winter releases with potential increases beginning in mid-May.

Burntwood River

Much of the Churchill River flow is diverted out of SIL through the Churchill River Diversion via the Notigi Control Structure to the Rat and Burntwood rivers. Flows through Notigi are at 860 cms (30,400 cfs) which is slightly lower than last year’s flow of 960 cms (33,900 cfs).

Nelson River

Nelson River flows will continue to rise over the next couple of weeks. Lake Winnipeg water level is currently 217.5 m (713.6 ft) ASL and is expected to increase slightly over the next week. Kelsey flows are at 2,440 cms (86,200 cfs) which is higher than last year 1,770 cms (62, 500 cfs). Split Lake water levels will drop slightly from 167.3 m (549.0 ft) ASL to 166.9 m (547.6 ft) ASL over the next week.

*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:

Waterway Community Engagement