February 22nd, 2024

Council addresses water supply and potential drought impacts

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on January 25, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The City of Lethbridge is taking pro-active steps to counter potential impacts of another drought.

With water levels in reservoirs at extremely low levels, city council on Tuesday passed a resolution to address concerns about water supply and implement solutions.

The resolution was put forward as an official business motion by Acting Mayor John Middleton-Hope and it was passed unanimously.

“Going back a couple of years ago, we started to have these discussions with Mr. Sanchez early on, recognizing the beginning of the drought cycle that we’re going through,” Middleton-Hope said outside council chambers referring to Joel Sanchez, Director of Infrastructure Services for the City of Lethbridge.

“It was obvious to me and it is obvious now to certainly other members of council, and I hope to members of the city, that drought is a part of our existence and management of this very scarce resource is absolutely essential for us going forward,” said the Acting Mayor.

Numerous options are available to address water issues including the City not putting in cedar trees along University Drive along the boulevards.

“We’ve spent lots of money” and other people have done the same with cedars, he said, noting it’s not necessary to water lawns seven days a week.

“We don’t need that type of consumption and that type of consumption is actually now draining our ability to be able to provide this important resource to our people. So we need to be looking at that,” he said.

The Oldman reservoir is below 30 per cent of capacity and St. Mary’s is at nine per cent, the said, calling those levels “catastrophic.”

Farmers are also now experiencing challenges with soil erosion so “we need to be getting on top of this now and we need to be changing the behaviours of people, so that in the future when we have to make these decisions, when we have to cut back on water consumption, people will be trained to think in terms of water consumption,” he added.

Sanchez noted more details will be provided to an upcoming meeting of the Assets and Infrastructure Standing Policy Committee about work being done by administration.

Those details will most likely include an update of the water rationing plan that was approved by council in 2016.

Administration is also working on plans or options to incentivize water consumption, he added.

“Our teams are looking into best practices and what are the options that are available,” he added.

Every month after that meeting, updates will be provided to the SPC. Administration is presently meeting at least every second week to get updates, he said. The city is developing a water conservation plan and a survey has been launched that will be open until the second week of February to gather information from residents and businesses on present water conservation practices and possible initiatives that can be taken. Feedback will be presented to the Assets and Infrastructure SPC on April 4.

The survey can be found online at getinvolvedlethbridge.ca

The OBM calls on city manager Lloyd Brierley to undertake four measures on water conservation. They include:

• Continue collaborative efforts with the province and regional partners on proactive measures to address water supply concerns;

• Examine best practices to determine constructive approaches most likely to yield success for Lethbridge and the surrounding districts;

• Explore programs to incentivize water conservation for consideration at the April 11, 2024 Economic and Finance Standing Policy Committee; and;

• Provide monthly updates to the Assets & Infrastructure Standing Policy Committee, beginning February 1, 2024, on the status of drought and water-supply conditions and the progress of the Water Conservation initiatives.

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