April 24th, 2024

‘Growing concern’: Alarm sounded over water situation

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on March 21, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

A director with the Livingstone Landowners Group is sounding the alarm on how dire the situation is in his community with water restrictions in hopes people across southern Alberta will take steps to conserve water.
Director of the LLG and Pincher Creek resident, Cody Johnson told the Herald Wednesday their situation is very concerning.
“With the MD having to spend nearly $1 million last year to small communities because the river is below the intake, so it’s been a growing concern just on the landscape, let alone in a residential and agricultural water supplies,” said Johnson.
He added they have been dealing with water restrictions since last year and continue to do so, and according the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 website, the area is under a mandatory Stage 3 – Extreme water restriction since Aug. 16.
The website states “The MD has two intakes, both in the bed of the Oldman dam reservoir. Quickly dropping levels of the reservoir relative to our intakes along with other unexpected factors caused the MD to move immediately into Stage 3 restrictions yesterday.”
“Agricultural producers are concerned, residents are concerned, Pincher Creek has had water restrictions since last year, we still do. We’re living this and we really wish that more people would understand how serious the situation is presently and looking forward,” said Johnson.
He said he hopes that by sharing this information people will make the best decisions on how to help do the most with the existing water supply.
“I think if more people in Lethbridge were more aware of the gravity of the situation they would be willing to do their part, as I think all Albertans would be, to try and see our water resources carefully used and protected,” said Johnson.
He said this includes stopping clear cutting and being careful with upstream collection of water. As conservationist and writer Kevin Van Tighem says, “it has to come from somewhere.”
Johnson added another concern people have is proposed coal mining developments in the area.
“To use more water and to impact quality and quantity of water for downstream users, that to me should be a non-starter and I’m concerned that our government is listening to a billionaire from Australia as opposed to what’s best for the local landscape going forward,” said Johnson.
Van Tighem also spoke to the Herald about the water situation, but from a broader angle as he believes this to be of concern for the whole southern Alberta region and not just the MD of Pincher Creek.
“We have had droughts in southern Alberta as bad as the one we are in or worse that lasted for up to 12 years,” said Van Tighem.
 He said droughts are normal and people should not be surprised by them; on the contrary people should be prepared for droughts.
Van Tighem added that the region has been lucky since it hasn’t experienced a severe drought in the last century.
And even though the area is suffering a drought right now, there have been worse.
“What are we seeing in the current drought is that in order to keep the off-stream reservoirs filled they drained down the Oldman reservoir and that means the communities around the Oldman now have to truck their water in,” said Van Tighem.
 The areas affected by that include Lundbreck, Cowley, Beaver Mines and Castle Mountain.
Van Tighem said the area should not be in that sort of crisis mode, but says drought should be dealt with pro-actively.
“This is not the time to be expanding irrigation, this is the time to be looking at putting water in reserve and reducing our exposure to risk, not increasing our exposure to risk,” said Van Tighem.
On their website, the MD of Pincher Creek explains it is maintaining the water supply with Alberta government approval by trucking water, but warn their residents that if the situation gets worse, higher restrictions will need to be imposed.
“The MD will need to implement the most critical stage of restrictions (Stage 4), which limits potable water usage to essential use only, such as sanitary and clean drinking water (no commercial usage).”
At this time on Stage 3 residents of the MD of Pincher Creek have the following restrictions:
⁃ For lawn and garden manual sprinklers, watering is allowed only between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on assigned days. Odd addresses on Saturdays only and even addresses on Sundays only.
⁃ For lawn and garden automatic sprinklers watering is allowed from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. on assigned days. Odd addresses on Saturday only and even addresses on Sunday only.
⁃ Lawn and aesthetic garden hand watering is only allowed on Wednesdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and between 7 p.m. and midnight.
⁃ There is no new lawn and landscaping permits being issued at this time.
⁃ Garden, ponds, fountains and water features are not allowed.
⁃ Residents and businesses are not allowed to use pools, hot tubs, or making outdoor snow or ice, except with permission from the CAO.
⁃ Cleaning outdoor surfaces is only allowed with a hose for health and safety reasons and only between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on assigned days. Odd addresses on Saturdays only and even addresses on Sundays only.
⁃ Vehicle, boat or any other washing is only allowed to be done by hand in moderation, only between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on assigned days. Odd addresses on Saturdays only and even addresses on Sundays only.
Van Tighem is optimistic about the water situation improving for southern Alberta based on the weather forecast this week.
“There’s no end to the drought on site, although we might get lucky this week. We’re getting a lot of snow this week, which could help us a bit, but we’re going to have less water in the river next year than we had last year at the rate we’re going,” said Van Tighem.

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