The Centre for Hydrology is leading and co-ordinating a number of major projects, which bring together researchers with complementary interests and skills from a range of different disciplines and departments, both within the University of Saskatchewan, and from other institutions in Canada and worldwide

Current Projects

Ecological Controls on the Hydrologic Response to Climate Change and Extreme Events in the Canadian Rockies (2020 - 2023)

Funded by Alberta Innovates, this project is located in the Canadian Rockies, and is in conjunction with the University of Waterloo.

The key goals of this project are:

  1. to advance our knowledge of the hydrological functioning of mountain basins by building on recent and ongoing enhanced mountain hydrometeorological observations of snow, soils, wetlands, forests, lakes, streams and groundwater, and recent advances in cold regions mountain hydrological modelling;
  2. to acquire a better physical understanding of the whole suite of mountain wetland and forest hydrological processes that control snowmelt, water storage, evapotranspiration and runoff generation; and
  3. to incorporate new advances from this understanding into the CRHM and MESH models across a range of scales, and explore the water-storage role of wetlands and the hydrological impact of current and scenario forest covers, soil disturbances, changing mountain forest-snow interactions, due to changing land-use and climate, on mountain wetlands.

Global Water Futures

Global Water Futures: Solutions to Water Threats in an Era of Global Change (GWF) has an overarching goal to deliver risk management solutions - informed by leading-edge water science and supported by innovative decision-making tools - to manage water futures in Canada and other cold regions where global warming is changing landscapes, ecosystems, and the water environment. GWF goals include i) delivering new capacity for disaster warning, ii) diagnosing and predicting water futures and iii) developing new models , tools and approaches to managing water-related risks to multiple sectors.


John Pomeroy, Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and climate change, leads the International Network for Alpine Research Catchment Hydrology (INARCH) project. INARCH is a Global Hydroclimate Programme (GHP) cross-cut project of WCRP’s GEWEX and a recognized contribution to the world water security initiative of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme.

The overall objectives of INARCH are to understand alpine cold region hydrological processes better, improve their prediction and find consistent measurement strategies. To achieve these objectives, it is necessary to develop transferable and validated model schemes of different complexity that can support research in data-sparse mountain headwaters where climate change impacts on water resources are anticipated to be very severe. INARCH has 25 intensely instrumented high-mountain research catchments in North and South America, Europe and Asia that form a vast outdoor intercomparison laboratory. For more information on INARCH, click below.

Completed Projects

The Canadian Rockies Hydrological Observatory (2012 - 2020)

The Canadian Rockies Hydrological Observatory (CRHO) aims to improve the understanding of and capacity to predict the changes in water yield from headwater basins where cold climate processes predominate. It will examine the water supply response to climate variability in a range of mountain headwater ecohydrological site types, incorporating the transient responses of both climate forcing and cryospheric and basin hydrological response. Particular attention will be paid to how snowpacks, glaciers, groundwater, wetlands, forests and frozen soils interact and modulate the response of water supply to variability in climate. An important component will be on downscaling climate model products over complex mountain terrain. The project will support improved water resource modelling and management over larger river basins such as the Saskatchewan River Basin by contributing advanced mountain headwater hydrological modelling capability and future flows under downscaled climate scenarios. It will do so by strengthening the hydrological and glaciological science foundation for estimating water resource impacts from future climate scenarios and by testing and improving hydrological models that can be used for current and future water resource assessments. The CRHO will also undertake a focussed effort to communicate scientific findings and new methods useful to governments, communities, and industry and to train and develop the next generation of cold regions hydrologists and glaciologists. More information on the CRHO is available here.

Changing Cold Regions Network (2013 - 2018)

CCRN’s objectives are to integrate existing and new sources of data with improved predictive and observational tools to understand, diagnose and predict interactions amongst the cryospheric, ecological, hydrological, and climatic components of the changing Earth system at multiple scales, with a geographic focus on Western Canada’s rapidly changing cold interior. More information about the CCRN is available here.

The Prairie Hydrological Model Study (2007 - 2010)

The Prairie Hydrological Model Study was a three-year project (2007 - 2010) established with the aim of developing improved software representations of "Prairie Pothole" hydrological systems, and led by Prof John Pomeroy, Dr Cherie Westbrook and Dr Xulin Guo.

These complex environments present a range of challenges in streamflow prediction: previous research had suggested that interactions between wetlands and land cover were important in governing snow redistribution and surface / sub-surface connectivity, and therefore soil moisture and extreme flows (both low and high), between relatively shallow topographic depressions, but the processes involved were not well understood.

The study focused on forming a detailed description of the Smith Creek research basin in Eastern Saskatchewan, and parameterising the interconnected processes at work immediately above, on, and below ground-level. These could then be represented within a software model, thereby providing significant improvements in abilities to predict streamflow from hydrometeorological inputs in similar settings.

More details about the origins, progress and conclusions of the project are available in the reports listed below.

Publications and Reports

  • Fang X, Minke A, Pomeroy J, Brown T, Westbrook C, Guo X and Guangul S. 2007. A Review of Canadian Prairie Hydrology: Principles, Modelling and Response to Land Use and Drainage Change, October 2007. Centre for Hydrology Report No. 2. pp. 35. (0.9Mb PDF)
  • Pomeroy J, Westbrook C, Fang X, Minke A and Guo X. 2008. Prairie Hydrological Model Study Progress Report, April 2008. Centre for Hydrology Report No. 3. pp. 18. (2.8Mb PDF)
  • Pomeroy J, Westbrook C, Fang X, Brown T, Minke A and Guo X. 2009. Prairie Hydrological Model Study Progress Report, January 2009. Centre for Hydrology Report No. 4. pp. 36. (1.6Mb PDF)
  • Pomeroy J, Westbrook C, Fang X, Minke A, Guo X. 2009. Snow Surveys and Hydrometeorology Data Collection in 2009 Winter Field Season at Smith Creek Basin, March 2009. pp. 7. (0.25Mb PDF)
  • Pomeroy J, Fang X, Westbrook C, Minke A, Guo X and Brown T. 2010. Prairie Hydrological Model Study Progress Report, January 2010. Centre for Hydrology Report No. 7. pp. 126. (7.1Mb PDF)

Vermilion River Basin Study (2010 - 2011)

The Vermilion River Basin (VRB) is located in the Parkland Natural Region of Alberta and drains 7,860 km², approximately 14% of the North Saskatchewan River Basin. This region is typical of the hydrology of the north-central Prairies. The VRB has been identified as one of most altered basins in the North Saskatchewan River Basin by the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance (NSWA). Of all the basin altering activities, wetland drainage is thought to be the most important in impacting watershed hydrology. The earliest drainage in the VRB was carried out in the Holden Drainage District in the upper basin starting in 1918. Subsequent drainage has occurred throughout the basin. Concerns relating to wetland drainage include enhanced flooding, deterioration in water quality, and impacts on the aquatic ecosystem. These concerns are of great interest to the NSWA that is responsible for completing a locally-developed and supported watershed plan that balances social, economic, and environmental needs of the watershed community. It is thought that application of the Cold Regions Hydrological Model Platform (CRHM) in the VRB can make contributions that will inform the development of this watershed plan. More information on the VRBS Project is available here.

SGI Canada Prairie Hydrometeorological Program (2007 - 2014)

The unique geographic setting and environmental characteristics of the Prairies are thought to make them particularly susceptible to extreme weather events as a corollary of likely climate-change scenarios. This study is aimed at identifying likely shifts in patterns, frequencies and intensities of severe rain and wind storms in the Prairies within this context, and thereby to contribute to the prediction and mitigation of these events.

This five-year research program is made possible by a gift to the University of Saskatchewan by SGI Canada, and led by Dr Kevin Shook.

The study aims first to describe past patterns of extreme events within the context of prevailing climatic influences, in order to support the development of software models linking both sets of phenomena: these models will then be used to forecast possible future storm frequencies under likely climate-change scenarios.

This will be achieved by building a database of historical wind-speed and rainfall in the Prairies, compiled from both archived data and new field observations, in order to generate sets of synoptic statistics. Subsequent analysis of these statistics will permit the detection of any trends in the frequency-distribution of extreme wind and rain events.

Investigations will then focus on describing changes in average summer length, rainfall and wind-speed under various climate change scenarios, as predicted by best available climate models. This in turn will support the prediction of future distributions of extreme rain and wind events in the Prairies for these scenarios.

IP3 - Improved Processes and Parameterisation for Prediction in Cold Regions (2005 - 2011)

The principal aim of IP3 was to gain further insights into the nature of, and interactions between, the physical processes controlling transfers of water between and within its solid, liquid, and gaseous states in high altitude (alpine) and high latitude (sub-arctic and arctic) environments, in order to develop software tools for streamflow prediction in these settings. The network included researchers from universities, government agencies and industry from throughout Canada, as well as contributors from the USA and Europe. More information is available from the IP3 website.

DRI - The Drought Research Initiative (2005 - 2011)

DRI's objectives were to advance understanding of the physical processes at work in Canadian Prairie droughts, and to improve methods for their prediction, through an intense study of the severe drought of 1999 - 2004/05. The initiative brought together researchers from across the Prairie Provinces and elsewhere in Canada. More details are available on the DRI website.