A photo of the MD of Pincher Creek’s two water supply intake valves, taken Oct. 6, shows water levels still at or near historically low levels. In August, the district was forced to truck in water to keep the taps flowing for its residents. | Photo by Dave LuenebergDave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Although it might seem like Southern Alberta has seen a lot of rain in recent weeks, it’s clearly not enough to remedy the MD of Pincher Creek’s water supply situation.

“No, not at all. We’re still in a crisis. We’re still hauling water,” Reeve Rick Lemire tells Shootin’ the Breeze.

“Our water woes are twofold. Number one, we’re working on a temporary solution to get water to the treatment plant. Number two is we’re gonna work on a project where we may develop raw water storage where we don’t rely on the reservoir for all of our water.”

In August, the district dropped from a normal Stage 1 level of watering  restrictions to a Stage 2 designation, but quickly lowered it, again, to Stage 3 when it became aware of the dire circumstances — levels on the Crowsnest River had dropped below its two intake valves cutting off its main water source.

“We’re looking at different options,” Lemire continues. “One of those we’re considering is getting permits to drill ground wells in the bottom of the river and then pipe the water up into storage tanks that could give us six to eight months of supply.”

This past summer, the MD had four trucks a day transporting water to the plant in Cowley, providing H2O not only to its rural residents, but also to Cowley, Lundbreck, Beaver Mines and Castle Mountain.

To keep the taps flowing the MD is currently hauling raw water from a location down from the Oldman River dam and combining that with potable water from the Town of Pincher Creek’s standpipe.

Even as a temporary measure, it’s proven to be a very costly solution — about $6,000 to $8,000 per day, Lemire confirms.

“We’re meeting with [provincial] government officials. We’re sending out letters to all the grant systems to help us out, but short term, we’ll need to drill a well … we know that,” he says.

“We have some water specialists that think we can drill into the water reservoir, the actual underground Crowsnest River. If we could get that, we could pipe that into the treatment plant.”

With reservoir levels at or near historical low levels, the MD hopes to find some answers as to what happened with this past summer’s water supply.

“I know we’re not alone,” Lemire says. “I go to meetings once a month with other communities. We aren’t the only ones with water woes, for sure.”

Next month, rural district and county councillors, like Lemire, will have a chance to sit down, albeit briefly, with provincial cabinet ministers at the annual Rural Municipalities of Alberta convention in Edmonton and lobby for support.

“We’re planning on meeting with the minister of environment, minister of transportation. All the ministers that we can,” Lemire says. “We’re setting up a meeting with our MLA as well, so we are banging the drum here.”

Ultimately, the best solution would be help from Mother Nature, he says.

“We need a lot of snow this winter and a healthy snowpack in the mountains to fix this.”

By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Oct 19, 2023 at 10:33

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

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