February 23rd, 2024

City Notebook: Water talk

By COLLIN GALLANT on February 3, 2024.


Water rights are the sort of thing so critical to rural business that they’re never mentioned in polite company.

Ditto grazing leases for ranchers, who usually can’t stop grousing about this or that, but dare not breathe a word about their arrangements other than to argue the situation is fine exactly the way it is, and why are you asking, exactly?

But water rights are no doubt a topic that will come up this summer as we speed toward a likely drought bad enough to have the Alberta environment minister already calling for voluntary agreements to shift water here or there depending on where it’s most needed.

Those talks began Thursday and ask large industrial users to divulge how much water they have a right to but aren’t using. That’s a big ask.

The general practice is to not advertise how good you’ve got it just in case someone else wants to take it away. The general reality is that you need water to have any chance in the Palliser Triangle.

Emphasis, underlining and boldface type is applied to the “temporary” nature of the new arrangements, but Minister Rebecca Schulz had to answer questions at a presser this week about larger reforms in the Alberta water market.

Knowing what’s out there is crucial, she said to “look at how we can get through a challenging year.”

“We want to make sure that we’re respecting of older, larger licences,”she said. “We want certainty, especially for industry, but we recognize that some change may be needed to be made.”

Such a thought will likely put southern Alberta ag producers on edge.

This column noted the potential parallel last fall when Medicine Hat signed on to discuss who-had-what-water-where in a Highway 3 industrial attraction effort.

Might the exercise end up as a matter of, if you haven’t been using it, you could lose it?

The South Saskatchewan Regional plan is due for updating after it was last looked at in 2014. A moratorium on new licences in the basin is older than that.

And these days you’ll trip over plans to expand irrigation acres.

These conversations could be tricky to navigate.

Quick ones

Is anyone watching “The Great Canadian Pottery Throwdown” on CBC’s streaming service? Ceramics are, after all, essentially the unofficial pastime of the Gas City. And something for the fellas: the Medicine Hat Police Auction is Feb. 10 at Higdon Hall.

In the region

Cypress county is a happening place this weekend.

The Irvine Library and Community Resource Centre is scheduled to have a grand opening on Saturday afternoon – this after work in the summer to expand the facility and a huge controversy last year over its location. Today’s event, from 1-4 p.m., constitutes one chapter closing and another beginning.

As well in Irvine, the hamlet’s ladies bonspiel is on (much to the envy of big city curlers). The Elkwater Winter Festival features activity all day, and the Seven Person’s Hall hosts the Quonset Days gala fundraiser in the evening (tickets required).

A look ahead

City council returns to regular meeting schedule Monday after a dearth of items on the agenda during a single meeting in January. A decision could be made to put the former Medicine Hat food bank location on the market.

100 years ago

Medicine Hat’s “big bonspiel” would feature seven sheets for play between 100-plus rinks, hopefully eliminating the need for games to be played around the clock, organizers hoped in the News this week in 1924.

The new British Labour government would formally recognize Soviet Russia, a condition to enter talks to discuss foreign debt repayment and the return of private property of British citizens in the former empire.

The three Prairie Provinces should be one, argued W.P. Dutton, head of the Western Canadian Retail Lumbermen’s Association.

“Identical interests, problems and destinies, the three Prairie Provinces could be merged … without the loss of one ounce of efficiency and with the elimination of two provincial machines.”

City meter readers began delivering utility bills during their rounds as a measure to save “a substantial sum” on postage. “Citizens can help the success of the system by their co-operation.”

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com.

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