Despite perceptions, the water level of Lake of the Woods is normal for this time of year.
Matt DeWolfe, the Executive Engineer at the Lake of the Woods Control Board, says Lake of the Woods is currently in the 50th percentile.
"[It] basically means half the years in the past it's been higher and half the years it's been lower, so we're kind of right in the middle in terms of Lake of the Woods level," said DeWolfe in a conversation with KenoraOnline.
DeWolfe says that the perception that Lake of the Woods is lower than normal may be due to Lake of the Woods being ice-free in mid-April. According to the Ice Patrol Pilot, Tim Armstrong, the last pieces of winter ice melted during the week of April 19, which is about a month earlier than normal.
DeWolfe adds that some area residents expect the water level to be 10-15 centimeters higher because we're used to seeing Lake of the Woods ice-free just in time for the May long weekend.
"We're right on track for a normal level for the first week of May," noted DeWolfe.
The watershed at large is currently experiencing an ongoing drought. Since September 2020, 174.7 millimeters of precipitation has fallen at the Kenora Airport, which is accounts for 53.26 per cent of what normally falls in the same time period.
"More rain is definitely needed to get up to typical summer levels. So as I say, the levels are normal for Lake of the Woods for this time of the year, but we're not up to typical late spring and summer levels for recreation uses," added DeWolfe.
The water level of the Winnipeg River is currently below the median level, which has lead the Lake of the Woods Control Board to reduce the outflow of Lake of the Woods by 15 per cent of the normal outflow at this time of year.
"The point of that is to help Lake of the Woods build up and create some storage of water. That water will be needed to supply the river later in the season if we do continue to see dry conditions," says DeWolfe.
A big focus of the Lake of the Woods Control Board has been to set an outflow level that can be maintained, to create optimal spawning conditions in the river for the various species.
"The gradual increase in outflow this spring has been to try to set a flow that we can maintain through the spawning period on the river, not to drop the river and expose eggs and fry along the river. So we're actively in that period right now, so hopefully, if we can get a little more rain can maintain that flow through the spawning period," added DeWolfe.
Lake of the Woods is currently sitting at 322.67 m (1058.6 ft) and is expected to rise by another 3 to 6 cm (1 to 2 in) over the next week. The average daily inflow is estimated to be at least 400 m³/s over the next 7 days, while the outflow is 250 m³/s and no flow changes are currently scheduled.
The Lake of the Woods Control Board manages the waters of Lake of the Woods, Lac Seul, and the Winnipeg and English Rivers between the outlets of these lakes and their junction. It was formed in 1919 and operates under Canadian federal and provincial legislation and a Canada-United States Treaty. The Lake of the Woods Control Board serves vastly diverse interests in the basin and tries to produce conditions that are reasonably acceptable to all.