Lethbridge will present water conservation plan in April to address declining reservoirs

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As drought conditions push reservoir levels across southern Alberta to their lowest levels in decades, Lethbridge city council has announced “proactive steps” to address water supply concerns.

A resolution passed at city council’s January 23 meeting suggested that Lethbridge officials explore programs to incentivize water conservation and start monthly updates on the status of drought and water supply conditions.

The Oldman Reservoir dropped to 26% in November from summer levels of nearly 60%, its lowest levels since it was built in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the levels in the Saint Mary Reservoir have reached single digits, when they should be over 50%. Waterton Reservoir levels are also significantly lower than normal for this time of year, city officials said.

“While the recent snowfall has been positive in terms of much-needed moisture, we are hoping to see a lot more of it in the coming weeks and months, along with significant rainfall in the spring,” said Lethbridge’s General Manager of Water and Wastewater, Doug Kaupp, in a statement last month.

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Alberta relies on melting snow and rain for most of its water.

In November, city staff dredged the water treatment plant intake canal to remove sediment that could limit the intake’s hydraulic capacity, reducing risk of deep freezing under winter’s low flow conditions.

Kaupp told reporters at a recent media tour event that expansion plans are in the works to add some 30 million litres of capacity to the water treatment plant, boosting it from 150 million litres to 180 million litres.

Lethbridge is also proactively developing a Water Conservation Plan to help reshape behaviour around water usage. A recent online Water Conservation Plan Survey received some 4,000 responses from local residents and businesses, an all-time high for the Get Involved Lethbridge website. The feedback will be analyzed and help to inform the Water Conservation Plan, which will be presented to the Assets and Infrastructure Standing Policy Committee on April 4.

“It is encouraging that an overwhelming majority of respondents indicated they are already aware of potential water shortages, while offering several good conservation ideas,” said Mark Svenson, Lethbridge manager of engineering and environment.

The recent council resolution will see Lethbridge officials continue their collaboration with the province and regional stakeholders to tackle the water shortage.

“Our working groups are exploring all options and residents can trust we will keep them informed about our proactive initiatives to manage low water reserves effectively,” announced Lethbridge Director of Infrastructure Services, Joel Sanchez, in a statement.

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