The Town of Strathmore received an update during the May 1 regular meeting of council on the current drought situation in the Bow River basin area.

Ethan Wilson, manager of infrastructure for the Town of Strathmore, presented before council an update that drought conditions similar to last year are anticipated throughout the summer. 

“There has been a little bit of change over the past couple of weeks for the better. Our snowpack at the moment is slightly ahead of last year, although last year, this is pretty much the time we started to see summer in May, and the snowpack in the mountains started to melt,” he said. “Whether we see that again is still to be seen, but as of April 15, our snow pack had 11 of the 17 sites (that) were in their normal range or above.”

In contrast however, Sunshine Village, which was explained to serve as a benchmark for the Bow River basin, was 100 millimeters below the normal range when it comes to local reservoirs.

Wilson added this is an indication of the water that will be available for the coming season.

Four of the six Trans-Alta Utilities reservoirs are at a volume less than 40 per cent of capacity.

“Some good news is the reservoirs downstream of Calgary and Strathmore are sitting at levels ranging from 85 per cent to even 96 per cent of their capacities and these are generally irrigation-based reservoirs,” said Wilson.

The Town of Strathmore will be regularly evaluating water levels and will be implementing appropriate use restrictions when deemed necessary. The goal being to ensure as many people as possible have reasonable access to water necessary for daily life and the production of food. 

Wilson explained a memorandum of understanding was recently signed regarding appropriate water restrictions by municipalities across the province. 

“The one specific to the Bow River basin includes (several) different irrigation districts: the City of Calgary, Ducks Unlimited, Nutrien, and Trans Alta,” he said. “It is basically an agreement that everybody will work together when the time is appropriate to ensure that everybody gets sufficient water for their needs on a priority basis.”

This is due to be activated when water demand exceeds water supply outlook. Once in place, municipalities will be asked to reduce their water usage by between five and 10 per cent, industry will withdraw to minimum volumes required to maintain safe and reliable operations, Trans Alta will optimize storage for flood and drought risk, and irrigation districts will be expected to share remaining water supplies proportionally based on acres. 

More information about the report is publicly available via the town meeting minutes published to their YouTube channel.

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 15, 2024 at 12:57

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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