The spring and summer of 2024 are shaping up to offer more drought conditions, and Bashaw town council is heeding the warning of a Government of Alberta minister on the subject.
At their regular council meeting Jan. 3 councillors read a letter from Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz that suggested the provincial government was warning municipalities the drought is expected to continue into this coming summer.
“Alberta is currently in a significant drought,” stated Schulz’ letter which was received by Bashaw Dec. 20, 2023. “During summer, 2023 several water basins reached critical drought conditions due to low rainfall and high temperatures.
“The world is also experiencing El Nino, a global phenomenon occurring for the first time in seven years. It’s causing less snow and rain, along with higher temperatures, heightening the potential for significant drought into spring and summer 2024, particularly in southern Alberta,” stated the minister’s letter.
Schulz went on to explain the provincial government has its own strategies for addressing what looks like another hot, dry summer and was encouraging municipalities to also plan ahead.
“[Provincial staff] are working with water license holders, major water users and other partners to develop water conservation plans and water-sharing agreements,” stated Schulz.
“In order to be fully prepared for a severe drought, municipal leaders throughout Alberta will need to take action,” added the minister’s letter, which went on to suggest municipalities begin monitoring water intake relative to water levels, review their municipal water license which may impact water access in case of drought, ensure staff are ready to work with the province if short water supply conditions arise and develop a local conservation plan if water is in short supply.
Coun. Jackie Northey stated she felt the Town of Bashaw should follow the minister’s advice and begin preparing for what looks like drought in 2024.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller stated the town’s water supplier, the Hwy. #12/21 Water Commission, could ask Bashaw to limit its water use this summer.
Fuller suggested contacting the commission to find out if it wants Bashaw to implement water restrictions.
During discussion it was noted there will be no commission board meeting until March, the board being comprised of the communities which contribute to it.
Northey stated if Bashaw is being warned now then perhaps it would be a good idea to share all of that information with the public which at least ensures water restrictions don’t come as a surprise to them next spring or summer.
Coun. Kyle McIntosh noted that Bashaw has already made a major advance in water conservation recently after solving a pesky water leak that’s been ongoing in town for years.
Mayor Rob McDonald pondered whether or not the Town of Bashaw should look into getting it’s water wells reactivated; the wells were removed from the water network after Bashaw joined the commission.
McDonald stated the wells could be a source of water in the event of drought.
Fuller stated reconnecting water wells to the municipal network would likely require approval from the provincial government but acknowledged it could be an option.
McDonald responded that the town should look into it now so if it’s needed the town will be ready.
Councillors unanimously passed several resolutions related to Schulz’ letter, including contacting the Hwy. #12/21 Water Commission about drought preparations and examining possible Bashaw water restrictions.
By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jan 10, 2024 at 13:27