Saskatchewan River Basin Observatory

The Saskatchewan River Basin is a primary focus for Global Institute for Water Security research. Located in one of the most extreme and variable climates of the world, the basin is a critically-important wateresourceThe Global Institute for Water Security experimental sites are located across Alberta and Saskatchewan. for the Prairie Provinces, includes regionally and globally-important biomes and represents many of the major challenges faced by water resources world-wide.

Research conducted here will benefit Canadian communities and lead to new insights and decision support tools for managing water resources and environmentalchange with world-wide application. The data will also be used internationally as part of the World Climate Research Programme to improve climate and hydroecological models and test remote sensing data products.

For decades, U of S faculty and researchers have been working at various experimental sites across Western Canada, gathering significant amounts of data. The institute is investing in these and new sites to provide a unique state-of-the-art observatory to improve our understanding of climate and environmental change in the river basin. Data collected will be used to create improved modelling tools to develop better predictions of climate and land use change, improve land and water management practices, and guide policy decisions.

For complete details of each site, please visit the Research Sites section of the website. 

About the Saskatchewan River Basin: Fed mainly by snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains, the Saskatchewan River Basin is the major water resource for the three Prairie provinces and is home to three million people. It supports 80% of Canada’s agriculture production and is globally important for potash mining, oil and gas extraction, and forestry. 

  • Urban growth and agricultural intensification are increasing pressures on water quality, with nutrient pollution affecting recreation, ecosystem health and drinking water quality.
  • Water resources are already fully allocated in southern Alberta, and the rapidly growing economy places increased pressure on these resources.
  • Climate change is affecting land and water resources in complex ways by changing the balance of snow and rainfall, reducing natural storage in snowpacks and changing river flows.
  • Extreme events are projected to increase with climate warming.

The Global Institute for Water Security is focusing major new research investments at the following research sites across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, working in conjunction with Canadian and international collaborators. These sites were chosen due to the extensive data records already being collected at many of them, and also because of their potential as benchmark examples of how prairie and mountain water basins respond to environmental change.