Welcome to the Milk River Watershed Council Canada

KF0_1977.jpgThe Milk River watershed is a unique watershed located in the most southern part of Alberta. It is unique, known not just for its dry climate, extraordinary landscapes and diverse plant and wildlife communities but also for the direction in which the Milk River flows.  The Milk River is the only watershed in Alberta that drains south to the Gulf of Mexico.  Alberta shares the Milk River watershed with the province of Saskatchewan and the State of Montana, U.S.A.

Water shortages are not uncommon in the Milk River watershed.  As the problem of water scarcity continues to grow, proper water and watershed management is critical.  The Milk River Watershed Council Canada is committed to working with government and non-government agencies, other non-profit organizations, industry and Milk River watershed residents to effectively manage watershed resources.

Anyone living and/or working in the Milk River watershed is invited to participate.  Please browse through our website and see how you can get involved in the many exciting activities of the MRWCC!

Working Well Workshop

Workshop information and registration

Water Update

May 18, 2023

May 5, 2023

April 19, 2023

The Cold spring and heavy low elevation snow in the headwaters and St Mary Diversion near Babb MT had delayed the diversion start up to the North Fork Montana. USBR crews spent nearly 2 weeks digging out miles of canal system for the anticipated season startup. From April 5th to April 11th the USBR was able to trickle approximately 50cfs into the system, but a turnout gate was damaged by ice above drop structure 5 requiring dewatering and repair. Repairs are now nearing completion.

It was reported at the IJC – LOI meeting (April 19th 2023) that startup will likely not take place on the diversion again for at least a week. There are a number of factors playing into the scheduling and it is a moving target.

At the same time, there is significant flooding occurring along the Milk River in the Hi-line of Montana due to basin runoff. Frozen soil conditions and fast rising temperatures have not helped with upland soil moisture conditions and low areas including most of the irrigation acres are underwater. US forecasters are expecting peak flows in most areas by this weekend with flooding continuing in the Glasgow MT area above the confluence with the Missouri River into next week.

Also of note, Fresno Reservoir is now at full supply level near Havre MT from the Milk River basin melt water. This likely means that demand for water will continue to be lower or delayed into the early summer. 

USBR staff say that operations are not likely to create a deficit for repayment to Canadian Milk River Water users before the May 31st letter of intent date.  

This means that water users will likely be reliant on natural flows only to continue late season irrigation practices. 

The situation is changing rapidly, and additional updates will be shared when available.

September 23rd, 2022

Releases from Lake Sherburne and diversions from the St Mary’s to the North Fork Milk River are being shutoff for the season with flow ramping beginning September 24th 2022. River flows are anticipated to start dropping quickly and will be low natural flow only by approximately Oct 5-7 at the town of Milk River. With receding water watch for exposed hazards if you see something that could damage the environment such as exposed gas pipelines, note the location and call 1-800-222-6514 for the 24hr environmental response line.

Thank you to all our community members and water users for the support this diversion season! We will continue to provide occasional water and snowpack updates over the winter in preparation for the 2023 season.

Please low the MRWCC on social media! And watch for upcoming in person forums, workshops, and tours this winter.


Elevation: 4748.44 feet;   Storage: 15,433 acre-feet;   River Outlet Works Release: 700 cfs;   Inflow:  cfs;   Canal Diversion: 600 cfs


On Saturday, September 24, 2022:

Decrease release from Lake Sherburne to 600 cfs

Decrease diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 500 cfs

On Sunday, September 25, 2022:

Decrease release from Lake Sherburne to 500 cfs

Decrease diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 400 cfs

On Monday, September 26, 2022:

Decrease release from Lake Sherburne to 400 cfs

Decrease diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 300 cfs

On Tuesday, September 27, 2022:

Decrease release from Lake Sherburne to 300 cfs

Decrease diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 200 cfs

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022:

Decrease release from Lake Sherburne to 200 cfs

Decrease diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 100 cfs

On Thursday, September 29, 2022:

Decrease release from Lake Sherburne to 100 cfs

Decrease diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 50 cfs

On Friday, September 30, 2022:

Decrease release from Lake Sherburne to 50 cfs

Decrease diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 0 cfs

On Monday, October 3, 2022:

Decreased release from Lake Sherburne to 25 cfs

Maintain diversion to the St. Mary Canal at 0 cfs

On Thursday, October 6, 2022:

Decreased release from Lake Sherburne to 0 cfs

Maintain diversion to the St. Mary Canal at 0 cfs

July 6th 2022 River Conditions update

United States Bureau of Reclamation diversion from the St Mary’s River to the Milk River is scheduled to stay at 600cfs for the month of July. Recent rains throughout the watershed ranged from 2.5 inches in the western portion of the basin to 1 inch in the east resulting in some higher sediment loads and flow. Flows east of the Town of Milk River are expected to stay within the 16-20m3/s range which is excellent for river recreation. If you are planning a trip down the river, be prepared, temperatures within the river valley are often 10 degrees higher that recorded on the upper bench. Though a great paddling river, hazards are often exposed with a lower flow and recent rock face falls near Poverty Rock have been reported to cause concerns for unexperienced and unexpecting river users. Please do not trespass and pack out all your garbage. Don’t forget to stop in town for supplies and support our local businesses!

Milk River at Milk River Yearly Graph

March 21, 2022


Elevation: 4780.44 feet;   Storage: 53,707 acre-feet;   River Outlet Works Release: 200 cfs;   Inflow: 5 cfs;   Canal Diversion: 200 cfs


On Monday, March 21, 2022:

Increase release from Lake Sherburne to 300 cfs

Increase diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 300 cfs

On Tuesday, March 22, 2022:

Increase release from Lake Sherburne to 400 cfs

Increase diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 400 cfs

On Wednesday, March 23, 2022:

Increase release from Lake Sherburne to 500 cfs

Increase diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 500 cfs

On Thursday, March 24, 2022:

Increase release from Lake Sherburne to 550 cfs

Increase diversion to the St. Mary Canal to 600 cfs

March 10, 2022

St. Mary Canal Operations – 2022 Start-up

We just received confirmation that the St Mary Diversion to the Milk River will start next week. If the weather stays fair and there are no major complications from infrastructure, we will likely see some increased flow on the North Fork Milk River by Mid week and augmented flow at the Town of Milk River by the end of the week (March 20). The current USBR schedule looks to ramp up the diversion over two weeks, so hopefully we will not see significant erosion from ice as we move to bank full conditions.

Just a caution, conditions can change quickly and we will forward any additional information or changes as they occur. If you are out and see problems with ice jam, significant erosion, debris or fencing within the river please take pictures, and let us know. If there is a emergency situation that could affect the environment, call the Environmental Response Line, 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 1 800 222-6514

Past Water Updates

Past Water Updates (2020 and 2021)

Virtual Watershed Field trips NOW AVAILABLE FOR EDUCATORS!!

‘From the Field’

The From the Field - virtual field trip educational series project allows for the development of curriculum linked grade 8-12 in classroom virtual field trips with wildlife researchers, habitat managers, and cow-calf farmers/ranchers that are responsible for sustainable management of land, water, and biodiversity in southern Alberta.

Alberta Conservation Association funded modules feature stewardship of Species at Risk on native grasslands, as well as management along water courses of the Milk River and the unique challenges such as management of invasive species and water shortages.

Teachers can book a virtual field trip with the Milk River Watershed Council Outreach staff by emailing allison@mrwcc.ca  Come along on the journey!

Securing a Home for Bats in the Milk River Watershed - We Need Your Help!

Bats on your property? Curious about the benefits of bats in the watershed? Looking to assist in the research and monitoring of Little Brown Bats? Let us know! Call for landowner!

If you are interested in learning about more opportunities to assist in this project, please contact Allison Choquette at allison@mrwcc.ca. or 403-647-4035

To learn more about bats and how you can help them on your own land, refer to this factsheet.

More information on this project.

Annual Online Auction!

The MRWCC will conduct Online Auctions annually to be held first week of April. Please help support the watershed planning, monitoring, and stewardship within our community!

Any donation is acceptable; big, small, used, and new will be appreciated. We also accept cash donations.

To let us know what form of support you would like to give and/or arrange how to pick up or drop off donations, please contact Mary at 403-647-3808 or email: mary@mrwcc.ca.

The MRWCC is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. Your donation will support community driven watershed stewardship initiatives that help achieve balance among a thriving community, a healthy environment and a prosperous economy through understanding, dialogue and action.

Individual and corporate donations are essential to leverage project funding from other funders. As a supporter, we will keep you informed through our social media, Meander newsletter, and email updates. The MRWCC is committed to ensuring that your gift will be used efficiently. The MRWCC is a registered charity and will issue a tax-deductible receipt for the value of your donation upon request.

To donate please contact mary@mrwcc.ca.

Sponsorship Request Letter

Gratitude to our 2021 sponsors!

Gratitude to Our 2022 Online Auction Sponsors!

Milk River Watershed Alliance Film Project

The Milk River Watershed Alliance (Montana) in partnership with, Montana DNRC, Conservation districts/Counties of the highline, Blackfeet Nation, and the Milk River Watershed Council Canada have completed a video to showcase the St Mary Diversion headworks and challenges facing water security for communities on both sides of the border!

Please watch the video, share, and start a conversation; the MRWCC is working with our partners to facilitate long term solutions to water security that strikes a balance on environmental, social, and economic challenges.

As residents, recreationalists, and water users you need to let your elected officials from Municipal, Provincial, and Federal governments know that political will and leadership are required to ensure security.

Link to the Video:

milk river film project.JPG



Quick Facts:

  • Do you know where our water comes from?

On average 80-90% of the river flow of the Milk River comes from a diversion off the St Mary’s River in Montana. If not for the St Mary’s diversion, most years late summer natural flow of the Milk River east of the Town of Milk River would be non-existent.

  • Groundwater and Milk River flow

Studies have demonstrated the connectivity of the Milk River to both the Whiskey Valley Aquifer and the Milk River aquifer. Over 350 farms, acreages, even parks are reliant on Water Co-ops that draw from the Milk River and adjacent aquifer for domestic drinking water. Thanks to leadership of the MRWCC and Geological Survey of Canada, we have some of the best transboundary aquifer mapping resources in the world right here in Milk River.

  • Water quality of the Milk River is affected by the St Marys River

The MRWCC has been monitoring water quality along the Milk River and many important tributaries for over 10 years. This data has helped form some of the most complete long term trend data sets found in any of the provinces major watersheds. Trends have shown us there are distinct differences in water quality between the Milk River natural flow which is high in salts and influenced by springs/groundwater flows; and St Marys River which is often higher in quality and glacial fed. The Milk River is distinctly two different rivers between the diversion and non-diversion periods.        

  • Water and agriculture

There are over 93,000 acres of irrigation reliant on the Milk River throughout the highline of Montana, and on average 8600 acres in Alberta. The Milk River is just as valuable to the ranching community with thousands of head of livestock reliant on the Milk River for water sources, rich riparian plains for grazing and refuge. 


Summary Report of Past Water Supply Investigations in the Milk River Basin

The summary looks at over 40 years of water management and storage investigations that Cover.JPGhave occurred in the Milk River basin, many of which have not publicly been available to watershed stakeholders and community members.
This summary document is intended to provide an objective review of past water supply investigations and supporting studies to establish a common understanding of the work completed among water managers and water users. The document may be used to guide future planning and decision-making to improve water security and drought resilience in the Milk River basin.
Release Letter
Summary Report




Learn more about how we are helping contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals!

We are excited to be a part of Together Alberta in Profile which promotes Albertans making a difference through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals. Watch and share our profile if you believe everyone can do something to make the world a better place!



Tim and Mary.JPG



The Milk River Transboundary State of the Watershed Report - 2nd Edition

SOW_Cover-website_0.jpgThe MRWCC is please to release the 2nd Edition of the Milk River Transboundary State of the Watershed Report. This report is a significant achievement in the move towards resource management that is uninhibited by political boundaries. Resource managers in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan and in the state of Montana in the United States joined together with the Milk River Watershed Council Canada to report on the state of the Milk River watershed.

This report documents general trends in the condition of natural resources in the watershed and includes information on:

  • Watershed Characteristics
  • Socio-economic conditions
  • Surface water quantity and allocation
  • Surface water quality
  • Groundwater
  • Riparian areas and wetlands
  • Biodiversity
  • Land use
  • Watershed stewardship

A read only copy of the report can be accessed below. A printable version is available under Library.

Hard copies of the report are available at the MRWCC office located in the Town Office at 240 Main Street in Milk River. For more information please contact us at 403-647-3808 or email mary@mrwcc.ca

Production of this report was a collaborative effort by numerous stakeholders.

The MRWCC wishes to thank everyone for their contribution.