Extreme drought drying up rivers, creating new challenges for southern Manitobans

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s rivers, creeks and dugouts are drying up as much of the province remains under extreme drought conditions, leaving some residents worried and businesses challenged.

The Roseau River is usually a long stretch of fast-flowing rapids near Dominion City, Man. This year, it’s near stagnant pools of water between a dry, rocky river bed.

Georges Beaudry runs a private campground called Oroseau Rapids Park along the Roseau River. The retreat site was closed due to pandemic restrictions, but now Beaudry is dealing with another challenge.

“We’ve never seen the river this low,” said Beaudry. “We’ve seen it low, but you could still swim and most of the rocks are covered.”

Kayaking and tubing are major draws for the campground, meaning it is a big problem when there is no water.

“It’s devastating for the tourism industry because this river contributes a lot to this municipality for tourism,” Beaudry said.

Georges Beaudry

Georges Beaudry runs a private campground called Oroseau Rapids Park along the Roseau River. (Source: Mason DePatie/ CTV News Winnipeg)

The Pembina Valley Water Cooperative (PVWC), which provides drinking water for much of southern Manitoba, said the Red River dropped to just 381 feet per second compared to the 1,500 feet per second it was flowing at in June.

“We’re working hard on different technical solutions, different ways to try and make sure the water can go fairly low and we can still get the water out of the river, but it is concerning seeing how fast it dropped,” said Greg Archibald, the water coop’s CEO.

The river levels are so low that the PVWC is forced to use temporary diesel pumps since the water line is below the regular inlets.

The extreme weather has prompted many rural municipalities, like the RM of Emerson-Franklin, which is in the coop, to declare drought emergencies.

“I just like to say conserve as much as you can,” said Dave Carlson, Reeve of the Emerson-Franklin. “Our restrictions are voluntary right now and we just want people to do their part to lower their water usage as much as possible.”

Residents in the RM are being asked to try and conserve 25 per cent more water by avoiding things like washing their cars, watering plants and filling pools.

As of Friday, the PVWC said usage was not down nearly enough, renewing its calls to action.

While residents work to conserve enough water in the short term, Beaudry is worrying about the long-term.

“It’s difficult to think about the future. If this continues year after year, we might have to rethink our business model here,” he said.

DROUGHT EMERGENCIES DECLARED IN SOUTHERN CITIES

Based on the recommendation from the PVWC, states of Drought Emergency have been declared in the cities of Morden and Winkler, along with the RM of Stanley.

A release from the City of Morden Friday said the province has identified Morden, Winkler and Stanley as a D4-Exceptional Drought (a 50+ year event).

MANITOBA’S LARGE CITIES KEEPING UP WITH DEMAND

Despite the drought, Manitoba’s largest cities are keeping up with water demand.

The City of Winnipeg said the source of the city’s water, Shoal Lake, is low but not unprecedented.

A city spokesperson said the lake level has changed very little in the last month.

As for the City of Brandon, a spokesperson told CTV News the city is not worried about water levels and will not be implementing restrictions anytime soon.

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