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Water shortage concerns prompt Lethbridge to plan for restrictions

Click to play video: 'Alberta braces for possible water shortages amid historic droughts'
Alberta braces for possible water shortages amid historic droughts
Concerns about the water supply are growing across the province, and officials continue to warn that without significant precipitation, Alberta could be in a dire situation come spring. As Jaclyn Kucey reports, the City of Lethbridge is doing a number of things to mitigate the effects of a water shortage. – Jan 7, 2024

The current water shortage concerns Joel Sanchez, the City of Lethbridge’s director of infrastructure, who says people need to start planning ahead.

“We need to start reducing consumption,” Sanchez said. “Anything residents do is going to help.”

The mountain snowpack supplies 80 – 90 per cent of the water supply for the Oldman River.

“With the warmer weather and lack of snow until now, we are behind,” said Doug Kaupp, chair of the Oldman Watershed Council.

Wednesday’s storage level for the Oldman Reservoir is at 28 per cent. According to the city, around this time of year, it usually averages between 62 and 80 per cent.

“All the years that I’ve been in the water business, we’ve never seen levels that low,” said Kaupp.

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The city said the snow right now will help but not relieve the necessity to conserve, and it’s similar story across southern Alberta.

“St. Mary’s is in the single digits right now, that’s almost historical levels. Typically at this time of year it’s over 50 per cent,” said Sanchez.

Click to play video: '‘It’s worrisome’: Province warning Alberta municipalities of drought heading into 2024'
‘It’s worrisome’: Province warning Alberta municipalities of drought heading into 2024

According to the city, of all the water pulled from the river, municipalities get three per cent. The rest is mostly used by irrigation districts.

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The City of Lethbridge has been working with the province since November, looking at levels in reservoirs. This work will continue over the coming months.

“It’s not unrealistic that it may take a couple of seasons to recover back to normal,” said Kaupp.

Click to play video: 'Water shortage prompts City of Lethbridge to plan ahead'
Water shortage prompts City of Lethbridge to plan ahead

Sanchez explained potentially more frequent drought conditions mean the city needs to be ready to react. The city has a dedicated team creating possible restrictions that could include limiting residential water use, even bans in the most extreme case.

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Sanchez added the city has never had to go to that extent but needs to have every option on the table. After the city implemented voluntary water restrictions last year, consumption went down 20 per cent.

Councillor Belinda Crowson brought an inquiry forward to council in December with concerns from the community about water issues.

“One of the main things that my friends and community members are talking about is water, not just here but in the agriculture community and across southern Alberta,” said Crowson.

The city will provide an update on its plans at the next council meeting on Jan. 23.

Click to play video: 'Alberta warns oil sector of potential water shortages amid Prairie drought'
Alberta warns oil sector of potential water shortages amid Prairie drought

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