May 26th, 2024

Small licence holders pushed for on-par water conservation

By Medicine Hat News on April 25, 2024.

Finlay Bridge and Medicine Hat city hall (top right) are seen beyond sand bars and low water levels in the South Saskatchewan River on Thursday.--News Photo Collin Gallant

@MedicineHatNews

Small water users are being asked to conserve along the same lines as voluntary agreements signed by some large water users in the province last week ahead of expected drought in the province.

Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz sent a letter to small municipalities and other licence holders this month asking them to abide by the same terms of voluntary agreements announced April 19.

The cities of Medicine Hat and Lethbridge agreed to a 10 per cent reduction in water use through operational changes at city facilities, and efforts like opposite-day lawn watering for residents.

Calgary will aim to reduce use between five and 10 per cent, and all large cities agreed not to enact priority licences if an expected water shortage occurs this summer.

Such action would push smaller and lower-priority licence holders out of their wells.

Now, all municipalities in the basin are being asked to meet that target, while private irrigators such and independent licence holders and golf courses are asked to mimic the allotments of the nearest irrigation district.

“Over the past two months, the largest water licence holders in the (South Saskatchewan River Basin) have worked to develop water sharing agreements to mitigate the risks posed by drought,” reads the letter signed by Schulz.

“I am writing to ask that all remaining 2,000-plus small licence holders implement the same water conservation measure as outlined in the MOUs.”

As well, industrial and commercial licence holders, feedlots and stock growers, oil and gas interests are asked to only “withdraw the minimum volume of water needed to maintain operations.”

A total of 51 water advisories were in place across Alberta at April 15.

The Bow River, Oldman River and Milk River systems are all forecast to be “below average” or “much below average” from March to September in the latest water supply outlook for April.

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