Where our water comes from

Kate Lovsin,
Lesser Slave Watershed Council.

We have heard concerns about how much water is out there this time of year. Here is a quick recap about our area.
Our area does not get its water from glaciers in the mountains. Our watershed, which is an area of land where all the water collects and drains to one place, gets all its water from precipitation like rain and snow.
Water is always on the move, changing from snow to water to gas in the clouds. Here, water flows from our major rivers (Swan, Driftpile, East Prairie, West Prairie, and South Heart) into Lesser Slave Lake. From there, Lesser Slave Lake has only one outflow, or spot where water leaves our watershed, which is the Lesser Slave River. Water leaving the area will meet up with the Athabasca River.
Water comes from higher elevation spots and flows downstream and into our lake, then out to another watershed. But what does that mean for the water we see in our lakes and rivers while they are still here? Well, the water comes from the sky through rain and snow. How much water we have depends on how much rain we have, how much snow we had over the winter, and how fast it is all melting or moving in our rivers. In the spring, we usually have lots of snow melting. As the summer comes, rain comes and goes, and warmer temperatures are here to stay.
The water cycle has four stages: precipitation, evaporation, transpiration, and condensation After a rain, water will flow until it is evaporated into the air, or after it has been absorbed through the roots of a plant, can be transpired into the air. Both evaporation and transpiration turn water into a gas and send it up to the clouds, where it will float around and become rain or snow.
And with all the water licences in the area, if everyone (including industry) used all the water they were allowed to, that would only account for one cm off the top of the lake! Our water levels change because of these natural processes, not human consumption!
In the summer, plants are using lots of water and putting it back in the air. Warmer temperatures are also helping to put the water back into the air through evaporation. Sometimes our rain clouds stay in one place and the water will come back to the same place, and other times winds will push clouds around and take the water to other places.
In Alberta, it is very normal to have high flow in our rivers in the spring and in the fall, have very low flow. So, if you are noticing there isn’t much water, do not panic! Think about how much rain or snow we have had; how hot it was outside and even if it has been windy!
If you have questions about water quality in our area reach out! We monitor the water all year-round. Call our office at (780) 5230-9800 or email info@lswc.ca!

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