The Saskatchewan River Basin Project

The Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX) initiative of the World Climate Research Program recently approved the Saskatchewan River Basin Project as an initiating Regional Hydroclimate Project. The project was developed by GIWS with our national and international research partners. It is one of ten regional GEWEX projects in the world and currently the only one of its kind in North America. GEWEX coordinates and guides international projects that integrate research, observation and scientific activities to improve predictive methods for global and regional climate change.   

The 336,000 km2 Saskatchewan River Basin (SRB) is located in the cold interior of Western Canada and is the major water resource for Canada’s rapidly developing prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba). The basin is drained by one of the world’s larger rivers. With one of the most extreme and variable climates in the world, the Saskatchewan River drains east from the Rocky Mountains, passing through a major 10,000 km2 inland delta before entering Lake Winnipeg where it joins the Red River and drains to Hudson Bay. The area is home to 80% of Canada’s agricultural production, and includes important oil, gas and potash resource development.

Management concerns include: 

  • providing water resources to more than three million inhabitants, including indigenous communities; 
  • balancing competing needs for water between different uses, such as urban growth, industrial development, agriculture and environmental flows; 
  • allocating water between upstream and downstream users in the three prairie provinces; 
  • managing the risks of flood and drought; and,
  • assessing water quality impacts of discharges from major cities and intensive agricultural production. 

Superimposed on these issues is the need to understand and manage uncertain water futures, including effects of growth and rapid environmental change, in a highly fragmented water governance environment.


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