The Wapiti River near in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Monday, May 6, 2024. (Photo by Jesse Boily)Jesse Boily

Aquatera is calling on residents to conserve water as the region faces drought conditions. 

The Wapiti River, the regional drinking water source, is experiencing the lowest recorded levels in 24 years, said Aquatera.

“The water basins are stressed, so let’s see if we can conserve some water,” said Aquatera Chief Executive Officer Vaughn Bend.  

“We want to encourage at least at this time voluntary conservation measures.”

Aquatera serves about 80,000 people in the Grande Prairie region, and Bend says if everyone does a little bit to conserve water, it will save a lot.

Voluntary measures include addressing any leaks immediately, installing water-efficient fixtures, running a dishwasher only with full loads, watering lawns and gardens in the early morning and late evening to minimize evaporation, and reducing washing vehicles and equipment. 

Bend said he hopes residents become “more aware of their water use.”

“In a normal time, we’d ask people to do that, and now we’re highlighting that as well,” he said.

Still, he notes that even with current levels “we have enough water to meet the basic demand.”

Bend said that because the water system is under stress, plans are put in place to ensure basic demand can be maintained. That includes being on a heightened alert to ensure equipment is reliable and reservoirs are topped up.  

Bend said the Wapiti is primarily fed by rainfall and snow melting in the mountains. 

“Generally, what we see is an increase in flow as the snow melts and as we start to get rain, so we’re still hopeful that we’re going to start to see the river recovering, obviously, not too wet a year, but to a year that hopefully will help us start to meet some of this discretionary demand as we go into the warmer months.”

Hope for rain is a common denominator across the region, including industry, farmers and firefighters. 

If the river doesn’t recover, Aquatera may need to begin mandatory restrictions, said Bend. 

Those would begin with reducing non-essential water use such as lawn, tree, and garden watering to odd numbered homes on odd days and even numbered homes on even days.

“Progressively, if the situation deteriorates more than we’re expecting, then the restrictions will get a little bit more extensive,” he said. 

Breakdowns of the water restriction levels are available on the Aquatera website. 

“End of the day, what we’re talking about as far as the basic use and your basic demand for the health and welfare of the population we foresee ourselves being in a good spot,” said Bend.

“We have rigorous processes in place to make sure we can meet the basic demand. 

“We have very qualified staff and we work very well with our regulators, our customers and our municipal partners to make sure that we’re going to provide the water that people need through the summer.”

Aquatera serves the City of Grande Prairie, the County of Grande Prairie and the towns of Sexsmith and Wembley.

Drought conditions and water supply are topics at this week’s council meetings in Beaverlodge and Saddle Hills County.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 16, 2024 at 11:53

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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