June 15th, 2024

Water conservation efforts underway to address drought

By BRENDAN MILLER on May 3, 2024.

Medicine Hat's Water Treatment plant is pictured Thursday. Members of the development and infrastructure committee received a verbal update from city officials on efforts to reduce water consumption this season.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER


Officials emphasized the need for collaboration among organizations that pull water from the South Saskatchewan River as members of the development and infrastructure committee received an update on the city’s water management plan.

The province has already asked municipalities to reduce water usage leading up to a predicted drought season for the region, and Medicine Hat has committed to a goal of reducing water usage by 10 per cent as part of the Old Man water sharing agreement.

The city has developed a water shortage management plan with four phases to meet its goal that includes both voluntary and mandatory water restrictions.

Currently the city is in its first phase of the management plan which suggests voluntary measures to reduce water consumption by asking homeowners to limit the number of times they water their lawn to three per week for a maximum of 60 minutes per day.

“And our hope is if Hatters pitch in and do our part, we won’t have to go to further steps which have mandatory measures on them,” says Jamie Garland, director of environment utilities. “That’s really the biggest thing where people can help is outdoor watering. If they can reduce that and try to follow the recommendations in our phase one, again voluntary, but if everyone pitches in we will meet our goals, no problem.”

City officials say they will continue to review and adjust the water shortage management plan as conditions change, and Garland says if the 10 per cent reduction goal isn’t met, officials will implement phase two, which includes mandatory restrictions.

“It would be mandatory measures for residents to only water 30 minutes per day,” says Garland. “That’s why our hope is asking for help versus saying we need this firm measure.”

Members of committee heard the city is planning to increase communication regarding the water sharing agreement and is monitoring river level flow and mountain snowpack. And, headwater reservoirs at Old Man are critically low.

“They’re in the 40 to 60 per cent range,” said Garland. “They have increased about four per cent from last week. So they’re filling, but it’s still not great. The Bow River headwater reservoirs are faring a little bit better.”

City officials noted they have received concerns from residents about water use at golf courses. Committee members heard that golf courses hold their own separate water licence agreements and only use city-treated water for their club houses and other facilities.

“Although we have no direct control over the golf courses, the City of Medicine Hat is going to be reaching out to golf courses to share our plans in hopes that they will contribute to the region’s goals for water conservation,” said Garland.

Councillor and committee member Shila Sharps says she is an avid golfer and would rather play on a “desert course” than “see them water if we don’t have to at the end of the day.”

Garland says “every drop matters” and emphasized the importance of residents coming together to reduce overall consumption.

“Think about how long your tap is on even just in the shower” says Garland. “Run full loads of dishes in your dishwasher, clothes, all those little things. Just keep it in mind, it’s not an unlimited resource, especially this year.”

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