City offers ideas of how water scarcity may affect the community

As summer approaches, Lethbridge residents may have a few questions about southern Alberta’s water scarcity and how it might affect the community. The City of Lethbridge has answers, outlined in its Water Conservation Plan and Strategy. 

As of today, the City has not implemented the Water Rationing Action Plan. An updated version of the WRAP includes new reduction targets and violation charges. The proposed bylaw amendment for the WRAP goes to Council May 14 for further discussion. Meanwhile, the City asks the community to continue voluntary conservation efforts. 

Many factors will contribute to any future restrictions. These include reservoir levels, mountain snowpack measurements, the water supply outlook and the discretion of the City’s engineer.  

Last month, the province announced voluntary water-sharing agreements. Major water licence holders in southern Alberta, including the City, agree to cut water use during severe droughts. Lethbridge’s WSA is with the City of Medicine Hat, Lethbridge County and the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District. Once activated, it’s anticipated the WSA will move Lethbridge to Stage One of the WRAP. This could happen by the end of May. 

The City understands the importance and prevalence of vegetable gardens in Lethbridge. When using a sprinkler, focus on high value assets like food producing gardens and trees. Outdoor watering restrictions in the WRAP aim to avoid runoff to ditches, swales, storm drains and gutters. The outdoor restrictions do not include using handheld containers to water outdoors until Stage Four. 

According to the City, the WCPAS features economic measures to help invest in water conservation. This includes incentive programs for rain barrels. The City will not provide rain barrels. Instead, future available grant money can offer rebates. Rebate programs are also planned for water efficient toilets and xeriscaping. The City will release details once funding information is available. 

Southern Alberta agriculture producers are doing their part to conserve water. Water allocation for the St. Mary River Irrigation District and Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District is currently set at eight inches per acre. This represents an approximately 50 per cent reduction from normal, highlighting their dedication to ensuring sufficient water supplies across southern Alberta. 

The City does not have oversight of water usage by local golf courses. Some courses have individual licences through the province. Others receive their water from the St. Mary’s River Irrigation District or the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District.

As an example, Henderson Lake Golf Course receives its water from Henderson Lake, supplied through the St. Mary’s River Irrigation District. The province continues to encourage all water licence holders in the Oldman River Basin, including local golf courses, to meet the same requirements as the signatories to the Oldman River Basin Water Sharing Agreement, including the City. 

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