Alberta communities continue to develop plans for water conservation

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Several cities in Alberta are currently working on water security and conservation plans as parts of the province, particularly in the south, continue to face drought conditions. 

As of May 27, there were 19 water shortage advisories in place for select water management areas across Alberta. More than 51 have been issued throughout the province so far this year. 

The City of Lethbridge is currently adjusting its operational practices to conserve water with the goal of decreasing overall water use by 20% before the end of the decade. While the city is situated in one of the driest regions of the province, it has one of the highest per capita water consumption rates.

Lethbridge Director of Infrastructure Services, Joel Sanchez, says a separate municipal target of a 10% drop in water consumption will come through various departmental measures such as reducing fleet wash schedules and washing for infrastructure such as bridges, medians, or signs.

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“We’re asking the community to voluntarily reduce water use, so the City must also ‘walk the walk,’” announced Sanchez in a statement. “We are adjusting operational practices, where practical, to conserve water.” 

As Lethbridge begins to open children’s splash pads for the season, officials have opted not to reopen any parks that don’t use recycled water. Other areas have had fountain heights lowered to reduce evaporation, or will be turned off while voluntary measures and water restrictions are in place.

“The community may notice a bit more dirt on city buses, or that some public spaces may not be as green as past years,” says Mark Svenson, Lethbridge’s manager of engineering and environment. “We are striking a balance between conserving water and meeting operational needs.”

At Lethbridge’s three water reservoirs, levels remain lower than local officials would like to see. The Waterton Reservoir, in particular, remains a concern with its level currently at 28%, when it should be closer to 70% to feed the Oldman River.

In recent weeks, Lethbridge released a comprehensive Water Management Plan & Strategy.

Peace River, a town about 385 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, is also considering a water management and conservation strategy. Last summer, the town had its lowest river levels in 20 years.

In Calgary, local officials are relying on their Integrated Water Security Roadmap & Water Reuse Assessment Project to support and guide the city’s long-term decision making and investments in water security and water reuse through 2100. The partnership with WaterSMART Solutions is funded in part by an Alberta Innovates “Water Innovation” grant of $400,000.

City of Calgary’s Environmental Strategy Team Lead, Pam Duncan, says the city is working with WaterSMART Solutions to assess climate change variables and conduct modelling, as well as understand water supply scenarios, analyze risks, and understand community values.

“What we learn will inform the direction of our roadmap,” Duncan announced in a statement. “Climate change introduces uncertainty in our water quality and quantity. And as our population continues to grow, we need to be able to balance our future water supply with efficient demand.”

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