The Crowsnest River has not run dry, although councillors and staff with the Municipal District of Pincher Creek have kept busy in recent weeks refuting a number of media reports saying otherwise.

“Our [water] intakes are constructed right near where the Crowsnest River historically passes, which is at the bed of the Oldman Reservoir,” says the MD’s utilities and infrastructure supervisor, David Desabrais.

“The river certainly has not been dry at any point during this water crisis. We’ve been pulling water from the Crowsnest River daily since at least Jan. 2. So, certainly not a dry river.”

Last August, the MD made the decision to institute a Stage 2 water restriction. Days later, levels on the nearby Oldman River dropped to historical lows — the level falling below the two intake valves that would otherwise collect the water supply. At this point the restriction was increased to Stage 3.

As a stopgap measure, MD council decided to truck in water, through the late summer and fall, to keep taps running with the intakes unable to do their job. This came with a high price tag — nearly $1 million at last count.

In late December, with water still near its intake, a temporary pumping station was set up on the river north of Cowley to provide a lion’s share of the MD’s water source. It will be dismantled once expected water levels return to the Crowsnest River.

“We’re making about two-thirds of our volume right now through the pumping setup that’s essentially hanging over the edge of the river,” Desabrais says. “Every morning our third-party contractor goes in and if there’s any ice will break it up as required.”

Once lowered into the river, the submersible pump goes through a series of processes before eventually ending up in the existing plant.

“The water goes through a clarification/settling tank for minor treatment before we send it farther. It then goes through a filtering setup inside the nearby sea can,” Desabrais says.

“From there, it goes directly into our intake pipe, our existing piping and into our water treatment plant.”

Although far less than before, the remaining one-third or so of the water needed to keep tanks full at the plant is still being trucked in.

“We are still supplementing our levels every day with potable water,” he says. “There’s a few contractors in the town of Pincher Creek that have water hook-ups within their shops and they’re trucking out water directly to our plant every day to start in the morning.”

But Desabrais and the MD know the current situation is only temporary.

“We’ve looked at a ton of options for securing our long-term water needs,” Desabrais says.

“We’ve submitted all of our regulatory approvals for a project to build new infiltration structures that would be located sub-surface near our existing intakes, about 300 metres to the west on the bed of the Oldman Reservoir.”

If approved, two buildings would house a new framework of pipes, which Desabrais says would be hydraulically connected to the Crowsnest River underground and could still draw water during periods of drought.

“From there,” he says, “we would pump it up to our intake building, which is located about 700 metres to the southwest, which our existing intakes go to.”

While some permits for the proposed project have been granted, Desabrais says the MD is still waiting on seven others before work can begin.

Once all approvals are final, the hope is to break ground as early as the end of March.

By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 12, 2024 at 13:06

This item reprinted with permission from   Shootin' the Breeze   Pincher Creek, Alberta

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