With a dwindling water supply and no real sign the situation will improve, the MD of Pincher Creek is looking at its options both now and into the future.
Among the possibilities are moving from current Stage 3 watering restrictions to Stage 4, which would limit water use to essential levels only, or declaring a local state of emergency, a move also discussed by councillors at their regular meeting Aug. 22.
Tony Bruder, deputy reeve and acting chairman of the meeting, feels the district needs to look at both a short-term solution to keep water taps flowing through the upcoming winter and a long-term plan moving forward.
“I don’t think this is going to be an only-this-year problem and we need to consider flushing out a capital project, while not rushing, for next year to mitigate this,” Bruder said.
Council will, however, need to explore available funding from the province or other sources.
As it stands, the MD is spending in the area of $8,500 per day to haul water from an outside source, a cost that could easily reach six figures before the end of August.
“I think we’re going to need temporary infrastructure over the winter,” Bruder continued.
One of the possibilities is an offer by the Town of Pincher Creek to connect to its water supply, until a more permanent solution can be found.
Another option discussed, but decided against, was to reopen standpipes in Beaver Mines and Cowley, something that wouldn’t result in any real savings compared to what’s being paid now for hauling water.
Completely unrelated but a potential impact in all of this is the MD’s decision to eventually add close to 60 properties near Beaver Mines to its system.
Could the eventual hook-ups be delayed with the challenges of finding water?
“We haven’t discussed that up to this point, but in my mind that might be a discussion to be had rather than add a whole bunch more people to the system,” Bruder said following the meeting.
“Most of them are on their own independent wells at this time. Why would we add the extra stress at this time if we don’t have to?”
Efforts to find a reliable water supply now and in the future affect not only the Beaver Mines area but also the hamlet of Lundbreck and the village of Cowley, where water for the communities is bought from the MD’s water treatment plant.
“I feel there wasn’t adequate information given to the domestic users here as it relates to the outflow of the Oldman dam,” Cowley Mayor Barb Burnett said. “I don’t know if that information was available to the MD, but there’s been a drastic reduction in the level of the dam.”
Burnett also agrees with Bruder that this year’s situation isn’t just confined to this year or only a local issue.
“I think it’s water management for this whole southern water distribution area … so it’s not just us.”