River Watch tests new technology to monitor rising waters

River Watch will be testing some new technology to monitor New Brunswick rivers during flood season.

Residents along rivers prone to flooding are warned to be prepared

A look at the flooding in Hoyt earlier this year. The province's River Watch program will begin March 12. (Debbie McCann/Facebook)

River Watch will be testing some new technology as it keeps track of New Brunswick rivers during flood season.

The annual monitoring program, which begins March 12, provides information about potential flooding and the risk of ice jams and other flood issues for New Brunswickers living along rivers prone to spill their banks.

This year, River Watch will use a flow forecast model called the Raven hydrological framework, developed at the University of Waterloo.

"It will allow the Department of Environment and Local Government, in time, to run much more specific weather-dependent scenarios with controlled time, over a 24/7 period," a department spokesperson said in an email.

Old and new 

Officials will still use the old model until all those involved in River Watch are completely satisfied with Raven's performance.

Elliot said the government continues to regenerate our existing infrastructure into a modern forecasting approach for the St. John River basin that promotes the public good and ultimately works to protect New Brunswickers.

"We are also upgrading our Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) which is the platform on by which all of our models are connected. This will allow for better coordination of our efforts and allow us to be much more efficient in putting out forecasts," Elliot said.

NB Power is also a partner in the initiative.

"We will provide mutual access and use of our data and models, making both of our operations more efficient and accurate." 

Weather monitored daily

The River Watch program is a joint effort of two government departments, Environment and Local Government and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. In addition to NB Power, other partners include watershed groups, and federal, provincial and U.S. agencies involved in monitoring and forecasting the water flow in New Brunswick rivers and streams.

During River Watch, officials receive a morning weather briefing, collect data from various sources, and use that information for river modelling and forecasting.

Jason McCoy shot this picture last year from his drone to show the flooding on Route 105 in Sheffield. (Submitted)
If any potential risks are identified, the public is informed. 

People living in areas prone to flooding are asked to be prepared. They should have an evacuation plan and be prepared to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours, various agencies say. 

People are also asked to avoid the banks of waterways and to stay off the ice as it becomes unsafe. 

Residents should report ice jams and flooding.

People living along the St. John River have experienced flooding numerous times, but the two worst years for flooding in Fredericton were 1973 and 2008. 

Water levels in 1973 reached 8.6 metres and 8.3 metres in 2008. The flood stage is 6.5 metres.