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Tag: water shortage

Backhoe at water pumping station on the Crowsnest River near Pincher Creek

MD creates makeshift solution for water supply

After a summer and fall where its water needed to be trucked in to keep the taps flowing, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek has created a temporary solution it hopes will get it through the winter and, possibly, into the spring.

The MD has set up a pumping station at the site of its water intake valves on the Crowsnest River, north of Cowley.

“It’s actually pumping water to one of our existing intake pipes,” explained Reeve Dave Cox.

“It’s not a big system. The intake pipes are about six inches in diameter and the system that pumps into one of those pipes is about 2½ inches in diameter.”

Utilities and infrastructure manager David Desabrais confirmed siphoning is carried out only during the daytime right now.

“We don’t have any raw water storage. All of our storage is on the treated water side,” he said. “Every day our goal is essentially, during working hours, to top up all of our rural water reservoirs before night.”

The process is then repeated the next day. Depending on demand by MD residents, water trucks may still need to be used to keep the reservoirs full.

In a perfect world, the idea might be a potential long-term fix, but it can’t be because of the system’s location on the river.

The pumping station “will definitely need to come out in the spring,” Cox emphasized. “It’s kind of inside the floodplain of the dam. It’s only there until we start to get high water.”

 

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The question remains, though, will we see a significant spring melt from mountain snow packs and, if not, can the pump station stay in place a little longer? The answer is yes.

But, “because it’s such a historic event, it’s tough to say, for sure, when [a rise in river levels] might occur,” Desabrais acknowledged.

“Typically, the reservoir doesn’t do its big fill until June, so that’s what we’re anticipating,” he said. “You never know. It could get messy down there earlier or there could also be a case where we get a terrible snowpack and we’d be in a position to continue using that setup further into the summer.”

“This is really a band-aid, for lack of a better word, to cut down on what it costs us to truck water,” Reeve Cox added.

“This is a way cheaper solution than what we were doing when it was all trucking. The trucking hasn’t been totally eliminated because there’s still some issues with water turbidity, and so we still have to augment the system with trucking.”

Is there a potential long-term fix? The answer to that is also yes.

“We’re working towards looking at a third intake near the existing two intakes,” Desabrais said. “They would, essentially, be tapped into the Crowsnest River aquifer. We wouldn’t actually be boring under the river, but connected hydraulically.”

The aquifer, which Desabrais pointed out isn’t a new source, is located just upstream from the current water intake valves and near where the old highway bridge was constructed.

He said if everything, including council and regulatory approval, falls into place, work could begin soon.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

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Dry riverbed with intake valves showing

MD of Pincher Creek searching for water solutions

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.”

Presenter stands to the left of crowd viewing screen at open house

Pincher Creek climate risks and adaptations

Jeff Zukiwsky, project manager for the Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan, addressed regional climate projections and risks for the Pincher Creek area along with projected costs of climate events versus the cost and benefits of adaptation measures at a June 28 open house.

Results presented focused on climate-change risks facing Pincher Creek, how these risks could affect the community, risks to prioritize and how to adapt to those risks.

The main risks identified, based on likelihood and potential consequences, include flooding, wildfire, drought, water shortage, extreme heat, loss of winter recreation and wildfire smoke.

About 20 people turned out to hear Zukiwsky speak about steps taken in developing the plan, adaptation measures identified and the economic analysis of doing nothing.

The action plan contains 35 recommended climate adaptation actions, listed under five categories: health and well-being, disaster resilience, infrastructure, parks and environment, and economy. 

According to the report, while climate change is expected to bring some economic benefits to the Pincher Creek region, the total economic impact is projected to be overwhelmingly negative. 

Under the high future climate scenario, it is anticipated that climate change will lead to economic losses estimated at $18.3 million and $32.8 million (in 2020 dollars) per year, on average, by the 2050s and 2080s, respectively.

Those who attended the open house were given the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions and talk with those involved in the project. 

Based on the reactions, comments and questions, Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead, feels the crowd was on board with the plan as presented.

 

 

“The positive feedback sets us up to pursue adaptation measures and stay ahead of climate change, as opposed to reacting to it,” he says. 

“This is an opportunity to invest in our future and to leverage this plan as a tool to pursue funding to go forward with some of these adaptation measures.”

For Walker, a major takeaway was hearing about a lack of trust in the town and MD’s community engagement processes, as a number of residents expressed disgruntlement with past attempts to engage the community in various decisions and actions.

They made it clear that, in the past, they felt ignored when called upon for similar community engagement due to a lack of action taken based on their comments, suggestions and requests. 

“A big part of this is going to be us rebuilding that trust and saying, look, we really do value your input, and we’re working hard to implement these things within the scope of our responsibilities,” says Walker.

The Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan was collaboratively prepared by the Town and MD of Pincher Creek, the Piikani Nation and a consulting team led by All One Sky Foundation.

The Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan report contains a complete list of recommended actions. The costs of inaction and a full economic analysis of climate risks are also highlighted in the full report. 

Funding for this project was provided by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s Climate Resilience and Capacity Building Program. The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre is a partnership of Alberta Municipalities, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and the Government of Alberta.

Residents with questions or comments are encouraged to email Tristan Walker.