Emma and Christopher Lakes reach record water levels

Matt Gardner
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The Water Security Agency (WSA) has put out a public advisory after water levels in Emma Lake and Christopher Lake climbed to record heights this week.

Gulls take off on Wednesday afternoon from a country road southwest of Prince Albert that is increasingly in danger of being swamped by high water. Rising water is a problem plaguing much of the region, with Christopher and Emma lakes now at record levels.

Both lakes are well above their maximum desirable operating levels. The water in Emma Lake is currently at 516.04 metres, which is 0.47 metres above the normal summer operating range.

Meanwhile, Christopher Lake is presently at 515.12 metres, or 0.31 metres higher than the normal summer operating range.

The WSA attributed the record levels for each lake to above average precipitation this year, with area rainfall in the last month between 150 and 200 per cent higher than normal.

“This is the highest they’ve ever been … Really, it’s a matter of a number of years of successive moisture in an area that’s a relatively closed basin,” WSA spokesperson Patrick Boyle said.

“It doesn’t have great drainage from it, so when the majority of the region is surcharged or full already from successive years of above-normal moisture, a lot of water is making its way into the lake and it’s pushing the level up because of our above-normal situation.”

The WSA expects high water levels and flows to continue well into August, but is not expecting releases from Christopher Lake to cause any flooding downstream on the Spruce River.

The agency’s decision to issue a public advisory was motivated in part by the desire to alert residents and landowners at Christopher and Emma Lakes to the existing high levels, as well as the flooding risks associated with further precipitation.

“It would have to be a pretty significant rainfall event to create some impacts,” Boyle noted.

“Warm, hot, dry weather will play a role in this, where we … lose some of that lake level to evaporation. Ultimately, that’s really what we need moving forward, and if the forecast holds as it’s supposed to be with sunny conditions, that’ll certainly help things.

This is the highest they’ve ever been. Patrick Boyle

“Any more moisture you add on top of that you’ll creep the lake up a little bit. But if you get a significant event then certainly you see impacts because of that, and we’ve seen that across the province this year, last year and the year before.”

On the other hand, where Anglin Lake was the site of flooding issues last year, that lake is currently well within its normal operating range at 515.42 metres.

For the moment, the WSA has reduced outflows from Anglin Lake in order to keep flows down on the Spruce River (although the majority of the river flow affecting downstream areas comes from other, uncontrolled streams).

Going forward, the agency will be keeping a close eye on weather conditions to determine whether water levels will pose a risk of flooding.

“Certainly people who have been in the area for a long time will already have noticed a difference,” Boyle said. “But we want people to have that extra level of awareness and really pay attention to the forecast, because as we’ve found out, these things can happen in 24 hours, 48 hours.”

Should water levels continue to rise, residents may turn to the WSA’s Emergency Flood Damage Reduction Program, which helps protect against imminent flooding.

However, if the extended forecast predicting sunny conditions holds out for the area, the WSA will begin slowly reducing additional flows from Anglin Lake next week.

“That’s kind of where we’re at … trying to keep the flows down on the Spruce River as much as possible,” Boyle said. “So it’s a constant monitoring role for us right now.”

Geographic location: Christopher Lake, Emma Lake, Spruce River

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