Burntwood, Lower Churchill, and Nelson rivers #1, Spring 2024

Spring water outlook for northern Manitoba rivers

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 and Nelson River Basins

Conditions across the Churchill and Nelson River basins have been dry for many months. Precipitation amounts across these basins over the past year has been the lowest recorded in the last 30 years.

According to the Government of Canada’s Canadian Drought Monitor data, many regions in Canada are experiencing abnormally dry conditions.

Flow on the Churchill River entering Southern Indian Lake is near the lowest we have seen in 40 years and Nelson River flow is at a one in 10-year low.

Changes in precipitation affect Manitoba Hydro’s operations and water levels across the system. Drought is a central focus in Manitoba Hydro’s planning, design and operation of its generating stations, reservoirs, and interconnections.

Manitoba Hydro closely monitors water supply conditions across the entire Nelson-Churchill River drainage basin and updates its forecasts and operating plans weekly to ensure adequate energy supply.

This winter, with low precipitation, snowpacks across the basins are extremely low. If precipitation continues to be well below average, it is projected flow and water levels along the Lower Churchill River, Burntwood River and Nelson River will be well below average this spring. Near record 40-year low levels may be experienced at some locations.

Long-term precipitation forecasts are unreliable and there remains considerable uncertainty in water level projections for the late spring and summer period. Manitoba Hydro will continue to provide spring outlooks for the Lower Churchill, Burntwood and Nelson Rivers in the coming weeks.

*Spring flows depend on how long it takes for snow to melt (for example, 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