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General information

Basin/Domain name

Saskatchewan River Basin

Location

AB/MT/SK/MB

Steward

Fuad Yassin

Last updated

October 8, 2019

Basin overview

The Saskatchewan River Basin (SaskRB) (Fig. 1) encompasses portions of the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, as well as a small portion of the US state of Montana. The SaskRB is situated in western Canada (98° - 118° W and 48° – 56° N), with a total drainage area of 406 000 km2 and approximate maximum dimensions of 1300 km east-west and 700 km north-south. The source of the SaskRB originates in the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, which includes parts of the Columbia Icefield. The two main tributaries of the SaskRB are the South and North Saskatchewan Rivers, both of which flow east and northeast through the Saskatchewan Prairies, before merging to form the Saskatchewan River, flowing through the Saskatchewan Delta (North America’s largest freshwater inland delta), and draining into Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. The two tributary river systems are further subdivided into nine subbasins of the Bow, Red Deer, Battle, Upper North, Central North, Lower North, Upper South, Lower South, and Eastern Saskatchewan rivers. The Upper South basin can further be disaggregated into the Oldman basin and a small watershed draining from Montana, US.

The topographic elevation of the basin ranges between 218 and 3487 m above sea level (Fig. 1). The physiographic characteristics extend from the rugged Canadian Rocky Mountains, foothills, and uplands on the far western side of the basin, to lowlands and plains in the remaining parts of the basin. The Ecozones of the SaskRB (Fig. 2) are classified into four ecozones; Montane Cordillera, Prairie, Boreal Plain, and Boreal Shield, covering 6, 58, 33, and 3 % of the basin area respectively. The Montane Cordillera Ecozone encompasses all the rugged mountains of the basin, the Boreal Plain has gently rolling to level topography, and the Boreal Shield contains hilly terrain with numerous ponds, wetland, and lakes. The Prairie Ecozone covers post-glacial undulating plains to rolling plains and flat terrain with numerous depressional areas. The Prairie have several unique features: the pothole topography prevents some areas from draining to the major river system, the ecozone has internal drainage, and connection to the major river system are intermittent (Pomeroy et al., 2010, Shook et al., 2013). The parts of the ecozone not draining to the major river system are commonly called “non-contributing areas”, defined as the drainage areas not playing a part in runoff in a flood that has a two-year return period (Godwin and Martin, 1975). Fig. 3shows the maximum possible extent of the non-contributing areas in the SaskRB based on a map from Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA, Hydrology Division, 1983).


According to the Köppen climate classification, the SaskRB climate is classified as cold semi-arid and humid over the Prairies and cool and humid continental climate over the remaining parts, with a long, cold winter and a short, warm summer. The mean annual precipitation ranges from 601-800 mm in the Montane Cordillera to 201-600 mm in the Prairie and Boreal Ecozones. Most of the precipitation comes as rainfall between April and August, and snowfall occurs in winter between October and April. Much of the annual runoff is generated from snowmelt during early spring from the Prairies and during summer from the mountains.

Figure 2 shows the land-cover of the SaskRB. The Montane Cordillera Ecozone is covered by barren land, glacier, grassland, shrubland, as well as needleleaf, broadleaf and mixed forest. Cropland and grassland dominate the land cover of the Prairies followed by depressional wetlands and lakes. The Boreal Ecozone around the upland and eastern part of the basin is covered by needleleaf and broadleaf forest, while the central flat land is largely covered by cropland with sparse broadleaf forest. The soil type in the Prairies is dominated by Chernozemic soils, clay-rich soils with a high water-holding capacity favorable for agriculture. The Boreal Plain soil types are Brunisol and Luvisol, productive for crop and tree growth. Both the eastern and a portion of the northwestern parts of the basin are underlain by mineral soils.


Hydrological structures

Outlet locations

Thirty-seven streamflow stations available through the Water Survey of Canada for SaskRB have been used for calibration and validation purposes (Fig. 4 and Table below). These stations were screened based on two criteria, (1) having drainage areas above 1500 km2, and (2) streamflow data record lengths at least for the model calibration period (2003-2008). Twenty-two out of thirty-seven stations (60 %) have been used for model temporal calibration and validation, while the remaining 15 (40 %) stations were used for spatial validation (independent stations for validation). Drainage areas of the stations used for calibration ranged from approximately 1500 to 289 000 km2, and of those used for spatial validation ranged from 2580 to 389 000 km2.

IDStation IDStation NameProvince

Latitude

LongitudeDrainage AreaRegulatedSubbasin

Operation

Schedule

1

05AA023

Oldman River near Waldrons Corner

AB

49.81

-114.18

1446

False

A

Continuous

2

05AA024

Oldman River near Brocket

AB

49.55

-113.82

4400

True

A

Continuous

3

05AB046

Willow Creek at Highway NO. 811

AB

49.75

-113.40

2510

False

A

Seasonal

4

05AD007

Oldman River near Lethbridge

AB

49.71

-112.86

17 000

True

A

Continuous

5

05AE006

St. Mary River near Lethbridge

AB

49.57

-112.84

3530

True

A

Continuous

6

05AG006

Oldman River near the Mouth

AB

49.91

-111.80

27 500

True

A

Continuous

7

05AJ001

South Saskatchewan River at Medicine Hat

AB

50.04

-110.67

56 400

True

A

Continuous

8

05BB001

Bow River at Banff

AB

51.17

-115.57

2210

False

B

Continuous

9

05BE004

Bow River near Seebe

AB

51.12

-115.00

5170

True

B

Continuous

10

05BH004

Bow River at Calgary

AB

51.05

-114.05

7870

True

B

Continuous

11

05BH005

Bow River near Cochrane

AB

51.17

-114.46

7410

True

B

Seasonal

12

05BH008

Bow River Blow Bearspaw Dam

AB

51.09

-114.22

7770

True

B

Continuous

13

05BL024

Highwood River near the Mouth

AB

50.78

-113.82

3950

True

B

Continuous

14

05BM002

Bow River Below Carseland Dam

AB

50.82

-113.44

15 700

True

B

Seasonal

15

05BM004

Bow River Below Bassano Dam

AB

50.75

-112.54

20 300

True

B

Seasonal

16

05BN012

Bow River near the Mouth

AB

50.04

-111.59

25 300

True

B

Continuous

17

05CA009

Red Deer River below Burnt Timber Creek

AB

51.64

-115.01

2250

False

C

Continuous

18

05CB001

Little Red Deer River near the Mouth

AB

52.02

-114.14

2580

False

C

Continuous

19

05CC002

Red Deer River at Red Deer

AB

52.27

-113.81

11 600

True

C

Continuous

20

05CE001

Red Deer River at Drumheller

AB

51.46

-112.71

24 900

True

C

Continuous

21

05CK004

Red Deer River near Bindloss

AB

50.90

-110.29

47 800

True

C

Continuous

22

05DB006

Clearwater River near Dovercourt

AB

52.25

-114.85

2250

False

D

Continuous

23

05DC001

North Saskatchewan River near Rocky Mountain House

AB

52.37

-114.94

11 000

True

D

Continuous

24

05DD005

Brazeau River Below Brazeau Plant

AB

52.91

-115.36

5660

True

D

Continuous

25

05DD007

Brazeau River Below Cardinal River

AB

52.88

-116.55

2600

False

D

Seasonal

26

05DF001

North Saskatchewan River at Edmonton

AB

53.53

-113.48

28 100

True

D

Continuous

27

05EE007

Vermilion River near Marwayne

AB

53.49

-110.39

7260

True

E

Seasonal

28

05EF001

North Saskatchewan River near Deer Creek

SK

53.52

-109.61

57 200

True

E

Continuous

29

05FA011

Battle River at Duhamel

AB

52.94

-112.96

5010

False

F

Continuous

30

05FC001

Battle River Near Forestburg

AB

52.57

-112.34

7680

True

F

Seasonal

31

05FC008

Battle River At Highway No. 872

AB

52.40

-111.41

11 700

True

F

Seasonal

32

05FE004

Battle River near the Saskatchewan Boundary

AB

52.85

-110.01

25 100

True

F

Continuous

33

05GG001

North Saskatchewan River at Prince Albert

SK

53.20

-105.77

131 000

True

G

Continuous

34

05HD039

Swift Current Creek near Leinan

SK

50.49

-107.65

3730

True

H

Continuous

35

05HG001

South Saskatchewan River at Saskatoon

SK

52.14

-106.64

141 000

True

H

Continuous

36

05KD003

Saskatchewan River below Tobin Lake

SK

53.70

-103.29

289 000

True

K

Continuous

37

05KJ001

Saskatchewan River at the Pas

MB

53.83

-101.20

389 000

True

K

Continuous


Reservoirs or large water bodies

The SaskRB is regulated by many reservoirs and diversions for hydropower production, irrigation, and other water supply. Irrigation is the major consumptive demand in the basin. In the Alberta portion, there are 13 irrigation districts providing water to 1 412 836 acres of farmland. In the Saskatchewan portion, 11 districts (80 000 acres) receive water from Lake Diefenbaker. Fig. 4 shows the major reservoirs and irrigation districts included. For details see (Yassin 2019b; Yassin et al., 2019a; Yassin et al., 2019b).


Table 2: Summary of irrigation districts in Alberta and  Saskatchewan (Figure 4)

Name of Irrigation Districts

Province

Irrigation District Number

Year Established

Irrigated area

(acres)

Source

Mountain View

AB

1

1931

1052 (426)

Belly River

Leavitt

AB

1

1944

4601 (1862)

Belly River

Aetna

AB

1

1959

1929 (781)

Belly River

United

AB

2

1923

17 277 (6992)

Belly and Waterton River

Magrath

AB

4

1900

11 188 (4528)

St. Mary, Waterton, Belly

Raymond

AB

4

1900

32 258 (13 055)

St. Mary, Waterton, Belly

Lethbridge Northern

AB

3

1923

122 378 (49 526)

Oldman River

Taber

AB

8

1917

76 872 (31 110)

St. Mary, Waterton, Belly

St. Mary River

AB

4

1900

342 757 (138 712)

St. Mary, Waterton, Belly

Ross Creek

AB

4

1954

1055 (427)

Ross Centre Creek

Bow River

AB

5

1920

198 196 (80 209)

Bow River

Western

AB

7

1907

67 643 (27 375)

Bow River

Eastern

AB

6

1914

274 940 (111 267)

Bow River

Hillcrest

SK

9

1988

3497

Lake Diefenbaker

South Saskatchewan River

SK

9

1966

38 349

Lake Diefenbaker

Macrorie

SK

9

1989

2388

Lake Diefenbaker

Luck Lake

SK

8

1984

10 771

Lake Diefenbaker

Riverhurst

SK

8

1987

15 228

Lake Diefenbaker

Grainland

SK

8

1979

2237

Lake Diefenbaker

Table 3 Summary of Major reservoirs in Sasktchewan River Basin (Figure 4)

No

Dam/Reservoir Name

Year

Main Purpose

Long (°)

Lat (°)

Dam height (m)

Capacity (MCM)

C =Capacity/MAI

1

St. Mary

1951

IR

-113.12

49.37

62

394.7

0.492

2

Waterton

1963

IR

-113.68

49.33

55

172.7

0.258

3

Oldman

1991

IR

-113.90

49.57

76

490.0

0.446

4

McGregor

1954

IR

-112.83

50.28

14

326.1


5

Travers

1954

IR

-112.72

50.18

41

317.0


6

Chain lakes



-114.16

50.27


17.3


7

Upper Kananaskis

1943

HP

-115.14

50.69

24

160.4


8

Spray Canyon

1951

HP

-115.37

50.89

60

421.9


9

Cascade

1942

HP

-115.50

51.25

35

387.3


10

Barrier lake



-115.06

51.00


24.0


11

Ghost

1929

HP

-114.71

51.22

42

132.0

0.048

12

Bearspaw



-114.30 

51.14


17.0


13

Glenmore

1933

WS

-114.10

51.00

27

19.6


14

Dickson

1983

WS

-114.21

52.05

40

203.0

0.167

15

Big Horn

1972

HP

-116.33

52.31

150

1770.0

0.747

16

Brazeau

1962

HP

-115.59

52.97

89

490.0


17

Gardiner

1968

IR

-106.86

51.27

69

9870.0

1.460

18

E.B. Campbell

1962

HP

-103.40

53.66

34

2200.0

0.153

Main purpose: WS-Water Supply, HP-Hydropower IR-Irrigation FC-Flood Control

Available data

Model Configurations

Table 2 Summary of irrigation districts in Alberta and Saskatchewan

References

Yassin F. 2019. Towards Improved Hydrologic Land Surface Modelling : Enhanced Model Identification and Integration of Water Management.University of Saskatchewan. Available at: https://harvest.usask.ca/handle/10388/12398

Yassin F, Razavi S, Elshamy M, Davison B, Sapriza-Azuri G, Wheater H. 2019a. Representation and improved parameterization of reservoir operation in hydrological and land-surface models. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 23 (9): 3735–3764 DOI: 10.5194/hess-23-3735-2019 https://www.hydrol-earth-syst-sci.net/23/3735/2019/

Yassin F, Razavi S, Wong JS, Pietroniro A, Wheater H. 2019b. Hydrologic-Land Surface Modelling of a Complex System under Precipitation Uncertainty: A Case Study of the Saskatchewan River Basin, Canada. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions: 1–40 DOI: 10.5194/hess-2019-207

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