Water Monitoring Bulletin – May 6, 2022

News Type: 
Water monitoring bulletin

The Government of the Northwest Territories maintains water monitoring stations across the territory to keep track of water levels and flow rates in areas of potential flood risk for communities.

This information is provided regularly to territorial and regional emergency managers to help understand the status of waterways across the NWT in the lead-up to, and during spring break-up – the highest-risk period for floods in the Northwest Territories.

Technical data

Current status - NWT

  • Break up is under way in the Hay River basin. Ice is moving in many sections of the Hay River and remains very dynamic;
    • Water levels at the Hay River near the border gauge have matched the peak levels from last year;
  • There is a significant precipitation event forecast to bring a total of 50 to 100 mm (starting as rain, turning to snow) to the Hay River basin beginning this morning and running through to Monday and will be accompanied by cool temperatures;
  • Some ice movement on the Dehcho (Mackenzie River) was reported around Fort Providence and Strong Point (between Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson), but Liard and Mackenzie ice remains stationary at Fort Simpson;
  • Water levels continue to rise slowly on the Liard River at Fort Liard;
  • The initiation of spring break up has been delayed relative to average break up times due to cooler than normal spring temperatures;
    • For example, Fort Simpson experienced the third coldest April in the last 35 years

Hay River

Current status

  • Weather forecast models are showing a low-pressure system moving over the Hay River basin from Friday to Monday. This system will bring a significant amount of precipitation (between 50 and 100 mm total), starting as rain and turning to snow on Saturday morning. Rain brings additional energy to melt snow and ice and will bring large volumes of additional water. Weather will be cool and cloudy over the weekend which could limit further ice melt;
  • Ice continues to move, jam, and release along sections of the Hay River. Ice jams upstream of gauge locations can result in temporary reductions of water levels;
  • Snowmelt has almost concluded in the north part of the basin. Rainfall on Friday should help to melt residual snowpack, but there is potential for new snowfall this weekend;
  • Refer to the Town of Hay River website for the most up-to-date information, as well as webcam images of current conditions.

Above – Hay River below Alexandra Falls on May 05. Photo courtesy of Travis Wright, Hay River Director of Public Services.

Liard river

Current status

  • Water levels continue to slowly rise underneath the ice at the Liard River at Fort Liard;
  • Snowpack continues to melt across the basin;
  • There have been reports of the Fort Nelson River (major tributary to the Liard River) breaking in Fort Nelson;
    • The Muskwa River (tributary to Fort Nelson River) gauge showed signs of ice breaking on May 03;
  • Break up was reported to start in the Upper Liard (YT), and there was reported ice movement in the NT around the mouth of the Birch River;
  • Warmer than normal temperatures are forecast for today with cooler temperatures coming this weekend.

Above – Liard River at Fort Liard hydrometric gauge photo from May 06 at 07:00. Photo courtesy of Water Survey of Canada and GNWT.

Slave River/Great Slave Lake/Dehcho (Mackenzie River)

Current status

  • Break up is progressing along the Peace River (which drains into the Slave River);
    • There are reports that ice has opened up at Peace Point and that ice is flowing into Lake Athabasca;
  • Ice is reported to have begun moving on the Dehcho (Mackenzie River) at Fort Providence, and around Strong Point (between Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson);
    • There was a small ice jam between Strong Point and Fort Simpson in the evening of May 04 which caused a small increase in level at the Strong Point gauge;
  • Ice on the Liard and Mackenzie rivers near Fort Simpson is still stationary;
  • A small snow cover remains on the ground in the Dehcho, which will continue to release water to local rivers and streams;
  • Break up has been delayed this year due to colder than normal temperatures;
    • April air temperatures in Fort Simpson were the third coldest over the past 35 years (the two colder years were 2002 and 2013);

Environment and Climate Change Canada has forecast above seasonal temperatures for today in the Dehcho region, with temperatures cooling off to below normal over the weekend.

Above – Mackenzie River at Strong Point hydrometric gauge photo from May 06 at 12:00. Photo courtesy of Water Survey of Canada and GNWT.