Accuracy of flood forecasting called into question
The mayor of Prince Albert is unhappy with the province's flood forecasting this spring.
Published Friday, July 5, 2013 6:06PM CST
With flood waters across the province backing down, questions about the accuracy of flood forecasting are on the rise.
Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said forecasting was way off this year, and he’s concerned it will affect citizen’s responses to future disasters.
“What my concern is the old story, how many times can we cry wolf?” he said. “What I’m worried about is next time they say (the river will rise) 4.5 meters and nobody will do anything.”
Last week a hydrology expert from the University of Saskatchewan also questioned the numbers, pointing out there were differences last week between how much water was coming out of Gardiner Dam and how much was flowing through Saskatoon.
“I’m not sure which number is right, but we need to establish that very very quickly,” John Pomeroy, director of the centre of hydrology, said. “We shouldn’t have disagreements on numbers like that on something so serious. That’s unacceptable.”
The Water Security Agency said it’s difficult to predict exact numbers when water levels are the highest they’ve been in decades. “Like any type of forecasting, it’s not exact and it’s impossible to predict exactly what will occur until it has,” Water Security Agency spokesperson, Patrick Boyle said.
One of the main priorities of the agency is making sure people in the province are safe from flooding. “We prepare for the worst and hope for the best in what we’re seeing in our forecast,” Boyle said.
Dionne agrees that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but he’s still pushing for a more accurate forecasting system. “It just shows that the computer program that we do use doesn’t work. We have to come up with a better way,” he said.
The Water Security Agency admitted their water gauges are in accurate, and said the change in water channels and flood plans over the years has also been a factor.
"We have hydrometric gauges out there. If we see flows we haven't seen before or in a long period of time, the gauges at times have some small inaccuracies because the channels may change. That is why we use a conservative estimate,” Boyle said.
Dionne will be filing a formal complaint with the province in the hopes of more accuracy in the future.