August 5, 2017 10:07 pm
Updated: August 7, 2017 2:04 pm

‘We don’t want to run out of water:’ Towns south of Calgary take emergency water measures

Global News
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The southern Alberta towns of Okotoks, High River, Turner Valley and Black Diamond were all under water restrictions as of Saturday.

Okotoks normally has lawn watering restrictions in place during the summer months, but conditions have become so dry, the water ban has been bumped to level 3.

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“It’s been quite a few years since we’ve had to do that. Basically [it’s due to] a hot, dry summer right now,” Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said.

Level 3 means it’s against the law to water lawns and wash vehicles.

Robertson estimates reservoirs were down to around 60 per cent, with fears they could have reached 30 per cent without the ban.

“Because of that, it gets to fire protection. Is it safe if we had a major fire? Would we be able to fight that fire appropriately? Because of that, we have now gone to a further ‘no outside lawn watering’ to let the reservoir levels increase and get back to a safe level,” he said.

The hot and dry weather also triggered level 3 restrictions in Turner Valley and Black Diamond for the first time since the floods damaged water infrastructure.

In addition to the watering ban, people are advised to only use dishwashers and washing machines if they are full and only flush the toilet for solids. There is also concerns with Sheep River’s dropping water level.

“You can see the river is low,” Turner Valley Councillor Gerald Pfeil said. “There was a stage where it started peaking when the melt began, but it certainly didn’t reach any normal level.

“Things have been very hot and the river is running extremely low. We have reservoirs to supply the two towns. We supply Black Diamond as well…we are just being cautious and we don’t want to run out of water.”

The lack of moisture has resulted in a hit to farmers around Calgary, too, with barley and canola suffering the most.

“It’s very dry; we’ve received very little moisture this summer,” MD of Foothills Councillor Ted Mills said. “Crops are hurting. Especially the later planted crops are really hurting now.”

Turner Valley and Black Diamond weren’t expecting water demand to go up as much as it did this summer. The conditions are so dire, the rain and cooler temperatures this week didn’t have an impact.

“Certainly water is precious in southern Alberta,” Robertson said. “We have 45 per cent of the population in the province, but only four per cent of the surface water running through southern Alberta.

“With growth in the province and the growth in southern Alberta, we are not getting any more water and there are no new water licences being issued for the Bow River basin – of which we are part of on the Sheep River. Because of that, the situations will be getting more dire.”

Fines for illegal water usage in Turner Valley run between $250 and $1,500.

The Town of High River is at a conservation level 2, which means lawn watering is restricted to certain days.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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