May 30th, 2024

City could impose water restrictions as part of agreement

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on April 20, 2024.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Director of infrastructure with the City of Lethbridge Joel Sanchez talks to reporters about what the water sharing agreement means for the city Friday at City Hall.


The announcement Friday of the largest water-sharing agreement in the province will have significant impacts on Lethbridge and area, says the director of infrastructure services for the city.

Following the provincial announcement, Joel Sanchez said the water-sharing agreements are established between the largest license holders in the province to draw water from the river or the reservoirs.

“This is the first time they are being put together in order to have a proactive measure in terms that the dry conditions that we might face during the summer are present,” said Sanchez.

He said four basins subscribe to the water-sharing agreement and the city of Lethbridge is part of the South Saskatchewan River basin and the Old Man Reservoir.

“We are in this agreement together with the City of Medicine Hat, the County of Lethbridge and the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District. The four of us are committing to not call priority, so basically how this is working in the water system is that each individual user will have a license and if the license is the oldest one, they have the right to call priority, which means they can shut down newer licenses.”

Sanchez pointed out the city is also a regional provider of water to the surrounding communities of Coaldale, Coalhurst, Picture Butte and the County of Lethbridge, as well as to a few commercial customers in the region.

He said the implementation of the water-sharing agreements ensure they all work together and do not call priority, with the goal to reduce water consumption.

“The commitment we have done today is we are going to reduce in this particular water-sharing agreement 10 per cent of the annual consumption during the summer months, so that would be between May and September.”

All three municipalities are committed to the 10 per cent reduction and the irrigation district will use whatever is left, but it has already announced a reduction in allocation to farmers.

“I believe it’s close to half of what they typically get in a normal year,” said Sanchez.

He said the agreements are a proactive measure, and they are waiting for information on how the snowpack determines if any action is necessary.

“Once the agreements are activated then we will move to a stage one and that could happen as soon as beginning of May.”

Stage one is part of the water conservation plan that was recently presented to the Economic and Finance Standing Policy Committee. The plan determines how water rationing will occur if necessary.

“If we move there, we’re going to limit the outdoor irrigation to one day per week, for residents they could do up to two hours one day per week and that will be based under green or blue and black cart day, so depending on that day that’s the day they can actually do outdoor irrigation.”

According to the water conservation plan presented at the SPC meeting, during stage one some actions are prohibited unless otherwise approved. They include watering that results in runoff, including to ditches, swales, storm drains and gutters; watering lawns, trees, shrubs, gardens and bedding plants; washing or hosing down sidewalks, driveways and streets; washing vehicles at locations other than commercial car washes; washing outdoor surfaces, including exterior buildings, sidewalks, driveways, walkways, outdoor furniture, patio and decks; and filling private in-ground or portable pools, spas or hot tubs larger than 3,000 litres.

Sanchez said that while outdoor irrigation is permitted for two hours on designated days during stage one, stage two will be reduced to one hour, and during stage three irrigating will not be allowed.

He said there are measures in place to enforce any failure to follow the restrictions imposed on any stage.

Stage one violations include a letter and possible $100 charge for a residential violation. Stage two could incur a $200 fine, stage three a $300 fine, and stage four a $400 fine. A $500 fine could be levied during a state of emergency.

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