Western Canada In Drought

Published online: May 15, 2002
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Because many Manitoba residents still have memories of the flooding Red River in 1997, they probably did not pay attention this year when the river crested early and low.

Yes, it is true western Canada is experiencing its worst drought in history.

How will this affect agriculture? Probably little, except for some dry pasture and reduced inter-provincial water flow.

However, water experts point out some serious trends. The Saskatchewan River is flowing at half its usual rate, and Lake Winnipeg is down two feet.

Drought is not new to western Canada. Tree rings show that over the past 500 years, prolonged drought periods of more than a decade have been common. During what is known as the “Dirty Thirties,” the western plains literally blew away.

Today, experts point out that with advanced irrigation, new crops and farming techniques, those days should be gone forever.

Probably the loudest noise will come from water users. Alberta will probably cut back on the water it releases downstream to Saskatchewan and Saskatechewan will probably do the same to Manitoba.