Dry weather, low river: South Saskatchewan water levels unlikely to increase this summer

Bob Haver has never seen the river running so low, and he’s been rowing on it for 45 years.

A founder of the Saskatoon Rowing Club, Haver is attuned to the rising, falling and shifting of the South Saskatchewan’s sandbars; at present, they are serious challenges for river users.

Coming through the city, the river’s average flow in his experience is 160 cubic metres per second (CMS), and at high times, he’s seen it at 1,500. Right now, it’s at 70 CMS.

“We’ve never had this many sandbars,” Haver said in an interview this week.

No matter how carefully the club evaluates the sand, it’s still difficult to chart a safe course. The sandbars are constantly changing and moving, he said.

“I was just down at the club putting a fin on a boat. When we hit sandbars, we often take fins off. In an average year we’d replace a couple of fins. In a year like this, it’ll be nothing to replace 10 or 12 fins. That gets expensive.”

A small upside for the rowers, canoers and kayakers is that power boats require more depth, and it’s difficult for those bigger craft to take on the lower levels, especially just south of the city.

“Sandbars and rocks are bad for motor boats, so the props are getting wrecked,” Haver noted.

Water experts back up his observances.

Read as CH director, John Pomeroy, comments on the low water levels in the South Saskatchewan River.