Canadian Rockies Hydrological Observatory - Saskatchewan River Basin

Canadian Rockies Hydrological Observatory - Saskatchewan River Basin

The Canadian Rockies Hydrological Observatory is a major observational network run by the Centre for Hydrology, USask in collaboration with the Biogeosciences Institute, University of Calgary, the University of Waterloo, the National Hydrological Service of Environment and Climate Change Canada, Government of Alberta and other partner organizations to improve understanding and prediction of hydrometeorological, ecological and cryospheric phenomena in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It forms part of the Global Cryosphere Watch programme of the World Meteorological Organisation, Geneva and is staged from the Barrier Lake Research Station of the University of Calgary’s Biogeosciences Institute in Kananaskis. It aims to:

  • Advance development and integration of information on how hydrological, ecohydrological and cryospheric processes interact to form streamflow
  • Develop and run hydrological models to produce earth system and water resource predictions for past and future climates.

Principal Research Questions

  1. How do mountain basin biophysical characteristics affect snow and ice systems to produce hydrological responses to precipitation and energy inputs on time scales from hours to centuries?
  2. Do cold regions mountain hydrological systems enhance or dampen the effects of climate variability on water resources?
  3. Are the Canadian Rocky Mountains a reliable future source of streamflow?


Primary Research Team

  • John Pomeroy, Geography and Planning, USask
  • Cherie Westbrook, Geography and Planning, USask
  • Warren Helgason, Civil, Geological and Environmental Engineering, USask.
  • Richard Petrone, University of Waterloo
  • Masaki Hayashi, University of Calgary
  • Alain Pietroniro, University of Calgary
  • Tricia Stadnyk, University of Calgary
  • Bruce Davison, Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Julie Thériault, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Ronald Stewart, Univ Manitoba
  • Stephen Dery, Univ Northern British Columbia


  • Kieran Lehan
  • Greg Galloway
  • Lindsey Langs
  • Joni Onclin
  • Logan Fang


  • Parks Canada, Banff, AB
  • Alberta Parks, Kananaskis, AB
  • Alberta Innovates, Edmonton
  • Alberta Environment and Parks, Edmonton
  • Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Edmonton
  • National Glaciological Program, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa
  • National Hydrological Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ottawa
  • Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ottawa
  • Professor Richard Essery, Edinburgh University
  • Professor Scott Munro, University of Toronto
  • International Network for Alpine Research Catchment Hydrology, World Climate Research Programme, Washington, DC
  • Global Cryosphere Watch, World Meteorological Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Alpine Club of Canada, Canmore, AB
  • Spray Lakes Sawmills, Cochrane, AB
  • Global Water Futures, Saskatoon, SK
  • Campbell Scientific Canada, Edmonton
  • Canadian Mountain Network, Edmonton

Key Initiatives

  • Installation of 15 new high altitude hydrometeorological stations, and 5 new high-altitude stream gauge stations in nested basins
  • Deployment of instruments to directly measure snowpacks, soil moisture, turbulent fluxes between surface and atmosphere, groundwater and atmospheric conditions.
  • Deployment of Uncrewed Aerial Vehicle surveys of land surface temperature, spectral reflectance, snow depth, water surface elevation, glacier ice surface elevation as part of the CFI-funded Airborne Cold Regions Observatory
  • WISKI/CRHM: data management through GWF, information assimilation and water modelling system
  • Studies of snow and glacier hydrology, boundary layers, wetland ecohydrology, treeline ecohydrology, climate modelling, snow physics
  • Operation of 35 stations in Kananaskis Country: 22 meteorological, 5 groundwater, 8 hydrometric
  • Operation of 15 stations in Banff National Park: 8 meteorological, 7 hydrometric
  • Deployment of Micro Rain Radars, optical-laser disdrometers, SoDAR and scanning wind Doppler Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR).

Principal Objectives

  1. Improve understanding and description of governing processes for mountain water supply
    • Snow and glacier cold regions processes
    • Ecohydrological processes
    • Sub-surface processes
  2. Improve modelling of mountain hydrological systems
    • Fine-scale distributed physically based simulations
    • Mesoscale headwater catchment models
    • Large-scale river basin and continental models
  3. Use better observations and modelling to improve predictions of mountain water supply
    • Downscale current meteorology and future climate to drive cold regions hydrology in the light of concurrent ecohydrological dynamics
    • Predict hydrological cycling and quantify uncertainty in these calculations in ungauged mountain basins
    • Improve the coupling of the sub-surface flow system to the surface / atmosphere system


  • Climate change impacts
  • Forest change impacts
  • Historical hydroclimatology and extreme events
  • Improved multiscale hydrological modelling
  • Storms and Precipitation Across the Continental Divide Experiment (SPADE)
  • Glacier hydrology
  • Mountain Water Futures
  • Turbulent transfer to snow
  • Ecohydrology of subalpine forests
  • Water use by subalpine forest
  • Chinooks
  • Snow measurements
  • Alpine and montane wetland dynamics
  • Groundwater-surface interactions
  • Coupled modelling: surface, sub-surface, atmosphere


Data papers describing CRHO observations and experiments can be found here for Marmot Creek, Peyto Glacier and SPADE.  Near real-time data by telemetry from CRHO stations are now available. Please click a link below to view the data from that station

Wolf Creek Stations