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Water rising in Grand River watershed, replenishes reservoirs

Rains this week not expected to cause flooding, but ice jams possible as temperature drops
20170103 Elizabeth Spillway ro
The spillway under the Macdonell Street bridge was gushing Tuesday as heavy rains fell. Rob O'Flanagan/GuelphToday

Pouring rain throughout the Grand River Watershed that started Monday night and kept soaking the region throughout the day Tuesday, will raise water levels in reservoirs and streams, according to a Grand River Conservation Authority alert Tuesday.

High water levels are not expected to lead to flooding, but caution is advised around all water bodies. The water will be higher and faster, and it’s cold, very cold.

“The runoff anticipated from this event is expected to be moderate,” said GRCA development/communications coordinator Cameron Linwood in an email.

Water levels in the Guelph Lake reservoir declined greatly in 2016 due to near-drought considers. This week’s rain, and other recent rain have helped the situation.

“It will help replenish levels at Guelph Lake and our other large reservoirs,” Linwood said. “We are now back into a normal operating range for this time of year at Guelph Lake as a result of this runoff.”

He added that recent slow, gradual melts should benefit groundwater levels, as well.

“Recharging the groundwater system after the significant dry period last year is important,” he said. “Recharge occurring now will help the groundwater system next summer.”

The temperature rose to 3 C by late morning Tuesday, and the rain fell straight down and steady. Much of the precipitation was expected to be absorbed by the snow pack.

But GRCA said the runoff would be significant enough to make a difference in the levels of rivers like the Speed and Eramosa through Guelph.

Those levels were clearly rising Tuesday, as water gushed from spillways and tumbled at a quicker pace through rapids along the Speed River.

Warmer temperatures are expected to remain until Wednesday, but will dip significantly on Thursday, remaining well below zero through to the end of the week.

GRCA said light rain fell throughout the vast watershed Monday, and continued in most areas on Tuesday, particularly in the south. Snow or freezing rain visited northern sections.

The levels in streams and rivers should remain higher throughout the remainder of the week and into the weekend. Conditions will be monitored as the weather system moves through.

Over the next several days, extreme caution should be exercised near water bodies. When the temperature drops, river and creek banks will be very slippery and will pose a serious hazard, GRCA said in the alert.

Parents are encouraged not to let children and pets near watercourses and frozen water bodies.

Linwood added that the coming cold conditions this week could generate frazil ice, which can build up and cause potential ice jams during prolonged periods of cold weather.


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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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