The past week saw some precipitation across the basin, with the greatest amounts near the English River downstream of Lac Seul.
Across the entire Winnipeg River watershed, however, drought conditions remain. The July 31 classification of drought by the North American Drought Monitor shows the entire watershed as either in severe or extreme drought. The latest update (August 12) from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows a swath of the Rainy River watershed now in the Exceptional Drought category.
Precipitation statistics from NOAA indicate that county-wide precipitation for Lake of the Woods and Koochiching counties in Minnesota were the lowest on record for July, June-July, and May-July. Records date back to 1897.
The LWCB’s watershed-wide statistics mirror this data.
Low flows and water levels persist across the watershed. Natural (undammed and unregulated) rivers are exceptionally low as are inflows to Lake of the Woods and Lac Seul. The Big Fork River and Little Fork River, key tributaries to Rainy River and Lake of the Woods, set new calendar day low flow records several times over the past few weeks, with record-keeping there by the USGS dating back over 100 years.
LWCB regulation of outflows from Lac Seul and Lake of the Woods and flows along the Winnipeg and English Rivers in Ontario is being carried out according the low flow scenarios in the adopted Regulation Strategy. With the ongoing drought conditions, the primary focus remains on conserving water in these lakes for future river supply.
The current level of Lake of the Woods is 322.55 m (1058.2 ft), a 10th percentile level for this time of year. The average lake level fell by 2 cm (1 in) over the past week and is expected to decline by 1-2 cm (1 in) over the next week.
Lake of the Woods authorized outflow is 130 m3/s. A reduction in outflow, to 120 m³/s, is scheduled for Monday, August 16. The Winnipeg River immediately below the Norman Dam is expected to decline by 1-2 cm (1 in ) as a result of this flow reduction.
The current level of Lac Seul is 355.50 m (1166.3 ft), a 5th percentile level for this time of year. The average lake level rose by 4 cm (2 in) over the past week and is expected to rise by 1-2 cm (1 in) over the next week.
Lac Seul authorized outflow is 60 m3/s. No changes to outflow from Lac Seul are currently scheduled.