Annual River Monitoring
Living on the Highwood River means living with the rhythms of each season. To understand the yearly cycle of river monitoring, you need to understand the river. Find out more about the Town's annual river monitoring here.
May 26, 2023 Update: See below (accordion) for details
- Snowpack remains below normal
- Decrease in river water level and flow
- Possible rain showers this weekend and next week are not expected to impact river levels or flows
Annual River Monitoring
Local river monitoring and observations are based on science and experience. We use data provided by experts - and based on this, the Town calls the shots to determine when action is required to protect our residents.
The town of High River monitors the river continuously. During peak hazard season, LED river monitoring signs are placed at high traffic areas in Town to keep everyone informed.
Town staff monitor data specific to the Bow River Basin (Highwood River). Data includes real-time information about the snowpack and snowmelt and is compiled by monitoring stream flow and volume at key monitoring stations. Monitoring information is shared with the community weekly on the website and social media.
2023 River Monitoring Updates
Friday, June 2, 2023
Snowpack in our river basin now melted away.
- With no additional snow melt, the river flows below average for this time of year.
Decrease in river flow
- The current flow is 17 cubic meters per second,
- Below the normal range of 27 to 67 cubic meters per second
Minimal precipitation forecasted
- Forecast shows a small amount of precipitation on Monday, June 5.
- No other precipitation in the next seven days.
Friday May 26, 2023
With the recent warm weather conditions the area has experienced the past week, the snowpack seen a considerable reduction.
Snowpack below normal
- The current snowpack is at 12.31mm of snow/water equivalent which is below the normal range for this time of year.
- Normal ranges are between 425mm and 175mm of snow/water equivalent.
Decrease in river water level and flow
- With the reduction in snowpack we had also seen the river water level and flow begin to drop.
- The flow currently sits around 18 cubic meters per second and the level is at 1.35 meters.
- Normal flow ranges are between 50 and 22 cubic meters per second.
Forecasted rain not expected to impact river levels or flows
- The weather forecast shows the possibility or rain showers on Saturday and possibly later in the week. It is not anticipated the rain fall amounts will have an impact on river levels or flows.
Friday, May 19
With the warmer weather, we have noted a steady decrease in the snowpack in Highwood River Basin. The snowpack is below the normal range for this time of year. Currently, approximately 200 MM of snow water equivalent is recorded; the normal range is between 250 and 475 MM of snow water equivalent. The river flows and levels remain within the normal ranges for this time of year. The current flow rate is 36 cubic meters per second. The river flow has remained consistent over the past week with slight fluctuation. Next week's weather forecast is calling for rain. Still, it is not expected to significantly impact the Highwood River.
Friday, May 12
Over the past week, we have seen the Highwood River rise in level and flow. However, the river remains well within normal ranges for this time of year due to the melt of our snowpack and some precipitation in our River Basin. The current flow of the Highwood River is within the average flow rates for this time of year which is between 12 and 29 cubic meters per second.
The current snowpack in the river basin for the Highwood is at 316 mm of snow water equivalent; this level is at the lower range of normal for this time of year which is between 300 mm and 520 mm of snow water equivalent. Over 600 mm of snow water equivalent was recorded this time last year.
The following week is forecasted to have temperatures in the mid to high 20s with limited rain. The higher temperatures will further melt the snowpack, which will increase river levels and flows; we will continue to monitor the levels for any significant changes.
Local River Monitoring Information
2022 River Monitoring Updates
June 24, 2022:
The High Stream Flow Advisory has ended for the Highwood River, and flow rates continue to decrease since last week. Current flow rates remain slightly above average at 63 Cubic Meters Per Second. With the warmer weather and some precipitation, the snowpack continues to reduce. However, the snowpack remains above average for this time of year. Rain is expected to continue today, June 24, with the weather clearing over the weekend. No significant increases in river flows are expected at this time. Protective Services staff will continue to monitor the snow melt and river conditions. Residents will be advised of any updates. Please follow the Town's website and social media for continued updates as river monitoring continues.
June 10, 2022:
Over the past week, with the rains and higher temperatures, we have seen a significant reduction in the snowpack. However, it remains slightly above normal for this time of year. A slight increase is observed in the river flows based on recent rainfall and snow melt in the Bow River Basin. The Highwood River is now flowing at a lower level than normal for this time of year. Over the next days, we expect a small weather system to enter our area from BC. Forecasted is approximately 35 MM of precipitation. There are currently no concerns of significant river level increases.
June 3, 2022:
With the onset of warmer weather, there has been a significant reduction in the snowpack. The snowpack remains slightly above normal, over the week we have seen a reduction of approximately 75mm of equivalent snow water. A weather system is expected to bring in between 20-30mm of rain between Saturday and Monday. The Highwood River has shown a small increase in flow given the melt of the snowpack, however, our flow still remains below normal for this time of year.
May 27, 2022:
The snowpack remains above average. This week there has been a reduction in the snowpack of approximately 50 mm of equivalent snow water. The Highwood River continues to flow below average for this time of year. Forecasts are calling for scattered showers over the weekend with minimal precipitation accumulation. There has been no precipitation in the basin over the past 48 hours.
May 20, 2022:
The snowpack remains slightly above normal ranges for this time of year. There was a snowpack drop of about 40-50 mm equivalent of snow water. Currently, the Highwood River is in a low-stream advisory state, with a below-average flow below the canal. We saw rainfall amounts between 3 - 16 mm in our river basin. Forecasts indicate no significant precipitation is expected over the long weekend and next week.
May 13, 2022:
The snowpack remains slightly above normal for this time of year. Some melting of the snowpack has occurred with the warmer temperatures observed last week. Some new snowfall was noted from the recent snowstorm, which occurred May 9th; this equated to approximately 20 MM snow water equivalent in our basin. The flow in the Highwood River remains below the average for this time of year. Later in the week, some precipitation is forecasted. However, no significant precipitation is expected.
May 5, 2022:
Alberta’s mountain snowpack is slightly above normal and it is beginning to melt and decrease with the warmer temperatures. Rain is expected over the next few days, however, there should be no significant changes to river levels. In fact, river flows are slightly below normal for this time of year.
April 29, 2022:
Town Monitoring Snowpack Melt Closely – No Concerns at Present
Local River Monitoring Process
"We use data provided by experts but we know the river, and the Town calls the shots to determine when action is required to protect our residents."
-Craig Snodgrass, Mayor of High River
Local monitoring and observations are based on historical events, science and experience
- Spring thaw, Spring rains and snowmelt are predictable cycles of nature.
- History demonstrates that when these events combine, the effect on the Town is not predicable.
- The Town conducts an annual Hazard Risk Vulnerability Assessment to determine conditions each Spring.
- In 2022, the Town will reach a milestone with the completion of Flood Mitigation infrastructure to protect our community, making High River one of the most flood protected communities in Canada.
- River monitoring, weather patterns and scientific data from the Province provides the intelligence required for timely and informed decision making.
- High River is recognized as a World class leader in flood planning and response.
- Town staff monitor and interpret data provided to us in real time by the province. Trigger points are established indicating when control measures must be activated to protect our community.
- The Town uses this information to ensure the safety of the community and its residents.
For more information, view the Living on the the Highwood River document.
Understanding Local River Monitoring Stages and LED Signs
There are many factors, both natural and human-induced, that cause rivers to continuously change. The definitions used on High River’s River Monitoring signs are standard terminology used by hydrologists who study and measure stream flow.
- Each year the Town places LED signs in high-traffic areas informing residents of the hazards during peak hazard season.
- The intent of these signs is to raise awareness of the potential for risk.
The Town will inform residents if action is required based on the risk. Refer to Town information on the website and social media and listen for alerts.
The Town uses the provincial standard to monitor the river:
- High Stream Flow Advisory
- Flood Watch
- Flood Warning
Action is not required until the Flood Watch stage, but it is always good to be prepared for an emergency.
To help with understanding flow rates being reported, please note that the river flow during the 2013 flood reached 1820 cubic meters / second.
Normal Flow Stage
Flow is measured by noting the amount of water passing by monitoring stations. This data is available in real time for the key stations monitored by Town staff on rivers.alberta.ca.
High Stream Flow Advisory Stage
Stream levels are rising or expected to rise rapidly, and no major flooding is expected. Minor flooding in low-lying areas is possible. Anyone situated close to the streams affected is advised to be cautious of the rising levels.
It is always important to be prepared in case the stream flow advisory becomes a Flood Watch. Water volume and flow is ever-changing, and the advisory may be cancelled when flows return to normal. If volume and flow return to normal, this stage will be followed with normal stage, or the advisory will be lifted.
Flood Watch Stage
Stream levels are rising and will approach or may overflow the riverbanks. Flooding of areas adjacent to these streams may occur. Anyone situated close to the river is advised to take appropriate precautionary measures.
Flood Warning Stage
Rising stream levels will result in flooding of areas adjacent to the streams affected. Anyone situated close to the river should take appropriate measures to avoid flood damage and injury.
Pay attention to Town information on the website and social media and listen for advice on actions required to protect yourself, family, pets and your home.
Highwood River Key Monitoring Stations
Alberta Environment and Parks has many river monitoring stations on their Rivers Alberta website. The Town focuses on those set up for the Highwood River Basin.
The stations monitored by the Town of High River are chosen because they provide the most relevant and timely data regarding the volume and flow as the river approaches the Town.
Data available includes daily real time information about:
- Snowpack and snowmelt information predicted by teams of experts who set stations up in the mountains at the river’s source
- Stream flow and volume as it passes by these stations
Staff also monitor temperatures and precipitation to anticipate potential impacts on the stream volume and flow. This monitoring data is available publicly and is shared with residents. High River staff monitor the river until the end of June.
Key Monitoring Stations: Highwood River
- Stimpson Creek near Pekisko
- Highwood River at Diebel’s Ranch
- Trap Creek near Longview
- Pekisko Creek new Longview
- Highwood Diversion Canal near the Headgates
- High River Below Little Bow Canal
Monitoring Data (examples)
If there are High Stream Flow Advisories, the area on the Rivers Alberta Map will be shown in yellow. Select the yellow bar and see a forecast link with additional information.
- Normal Range is shown in the grey bar
- Blue shows the highest recorded flow on these dates
- Red shows the current levels
- On May 6, 2022 at 8:18 AM levels are shown below the normal flow (grey bar)
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