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Concerns raised over Alberta’s water-sharing agreement

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised following Alberta’s new water sharing agreement'
Concerns raised following Alberta’s new water sharing agreement
WATCH ABOVE: The province has announced what they call the largest water sharing agreement in Alberta’s history. This would mean if a severe drought developed municipalities would cut water usage. As Jasmine King explains, some have been left wondering if that goes far enough – Apr 20, 2024

The Alberta government has announced what it’s calling the largest water-sharing agreement in the province’s history, but some say it doesn’t go far enough.

This will mean in a severe drought, municipalities would cut water usage.

Click to play video: 'Southern Alberta stakeholders sign historic water-sharing agreement'
Southern Alberta stakeholders sign historic water-sharing agreement

Municipalities, irrigation districts and industry players have signed memorandums of understanding covering four sub-basins — the Red Deer River, the Bow River, the mainstem of the Oldman River and upper tributaries of the Oldman.

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The deals are billed as the biggest of their kind in Alberta’s history and dwarf ones inked during the 2001 drought.

“These agreements — they didn’t come together overnight,” Rebecca Schulz, the provincial environment minister, said at a news conference Friday. “They represent countless hours of negotiation, compromises and a shared belief that Albertans are better off working together in a potential time of water scarcity.”

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Schulz said municipalities have agreed to cut their water use by between five and 10 per cent if needed — targets that wouldn’t affect indoor water consumption. Some have already begun to do so proactively, she added.

Click to play video: 'Drought concerns prompt water-use agreement in Alberta'
Drought concerns prompt water-use agreement in Alberta

Geophysicist Jenny Yeremiy says this agreement doesn’t go far enough and the province needs to look further ahead.

“It’s like a parent standing at the top of the stairs and saying, ‘You kids sort this out or I’m going to come down and take care of it for you,'” Yeremiy said.

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“To go into this with multiple years ahead of us, and not take the most precautions possible, which to me would be to shut off using water in every single way we can, is really important.”

Industries have agreed to use the smallest amount needed to operate safely and responsibly. Irrigation districts have agreed to allow other users to get first crack, then keep the rest for licensed use.

Schulz said it won’t be known whether the agreements will need to be acted upon until snowpack data comes in later this month. Water amounts are to be updated every two weeks starting in May.

Click to play video: 'Alberta tests water tech amid drought concerns'
Alberta tests water tech amid drought concerns

Yeremiy has raised concerns that the oil industry is getting a pass through the agreement and will not have to conserve as much water.

On her radio show Your Province Your Premier on 630 CHED and 770 QR Calgary, Premier Danielle Smith said industrial use is only a small sliver of water use in the province, but changes will come if necessary.

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“If we get into water restrictions and I have to declare an emergency, we’ve discussed this as a cabinet, the priority will be humans, livestock and fish habitats,” said Smith.

“If we can be in the field by May 1, putting seed in the ground that’s a great year, anything earlier is a bonus,” said Joe Bendoritis, a farmer in central Alberta. “We need the moisture in May, June, July and August.

“Things are looking dry overall but normal for the time of year.”

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