Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MD asks Town of Pincher Creek for temporary water transfer

Chris Davis - Water restrictions are currently in effect for the MD of Pincher Creek No. 9, the Town of Pincher Creek, and the Village of Cowley.  The MD issued a Level 2 Water Restriction, due to the continued decrease in water levels within the Castle River and the Oldman Dam Reservoir. According to the MD, "Residents of the Hamlet of Lundbreck and the Village of Cowley are strongly requested to conserve domestic water within their households. Outside watering will no longer be permitted. The Village of Cowley water standpipe will be closed until further notice." The Town of Pincher Creek has issued a Stage 3 Water Restriction, saying "We ask residents to assist by reducing water usage at home and in your businesses."

At their September 26 regular meeting council for the MD of Pincher Creek discussed and passed a recommendation by MD Director of Operations Leo Reedyk that the MD request a temporary water transfer from the Town of Pincher Creek to meet needs.  According to Reedyk, Alberta Environment notified the MD on July 25, 2017 "that the instream objectives for our water license were not being met and we would need to find an alternate source of water."

The Town of Pincher Creek's Water Stewardship Policy States, in part "The Town of Pincher Creek, in proactively addressing long-term imbalances of water demand and availability, and as committed members of both the Oldman Watershed Council and the Pincher Creek Watershed group will provide guidelines for water stewardship for drought and water scarcity events."

From Reedyk's report to council:

"Water for Licenses for the Village of Cowley and the Hamlet of Lundbreck are drawn from the Castle River in the SE 2-7-1-WSM. On July 25, 2017 Alberta Environment notified the municipality that the instream objectives for our water license were not being met and we would need to find an alternate source of water.

"Public Works staff have been running an emergency pump in the Oldman Dam Reservoir as a means of supplying raw water to the Regional Water System. Raw water is trucked to the treatment plant on occasions when relocating the pump intake is required.

"On September 12-14, during the Kenow Wildfire, the municipality was allowed to draw water from the Castle River to allow water trucks to respond to the fire while the pump intake was relocated. On September 18, the location of the pump intake became exposed as water levels on the flats in the dam bottom became exposed. A total relocation of the pump is necessary. A level 2 water restriction was placed on water users startingSeptember 18, 2017. Residents have responded with a 30% reduction in their water consumption.

"Staff informed Alberta Environment of the situation and again we were allowed to draw water from the Castle River while implementing a plan to relocate the emergency pump. A location for the emergency pump has been identified, although it would require that a larger pump, capable of lifting 40 feet on the intake would be required. Alternately, a location for the pump to stand would need to be constructed, in the mud adjacent to the Crowsnest River channel.

"Options for continued operation of the emergency pump are limited and will certainly be impacted should the temperatures drop below freezing for an extended period of time. The timeline for construction of the new intake into the Oldman Dam Reservoir is optimistically estimated for completion in late January 2018.

"At their Policy and Plans meeting that had been scheduled for September 12, 2017, arrangements to meet the South Lundbreck Water Coop Board of Directors, to discuss water issues including the possibility of a temporary water transfer were pre-empted by the Kenow wildfire emergency. A follow up phone call determined that a meeting to have that discussion would probably not happen until late October or early November.

"Another source of a potential temporary water transfer is the Town of Pincher Creek. Their Water Stewardship Policy indicates that any water sharing is at the discretion of Town Council.

According to Alberta Water Approvals Team Lead David Hunt, in a letter to Reedyk, The Water Act is the mechanism for declaring an emergency in associated with water diversion... Lieutenant Governor in Council may declare an emergency regarding water within the province or area of the province. The Director under the Water Act would then issue water management orders suspending diversions of water and determine the purposes and the volumes that may be diverted in the area affected. The water users affected by the declaration would be entitled to compensation for losses incurred as a result of the order. Declaring an emergency is stage 5 in Water Shortage Procedures for the South Saskatchewan River Basin response plan, we are only at a stage 2 right now, which is the lnstream Objectives are not being met and licences may not divert water, in certain basins."

Alberta Water Act and South Saskatchewan Regional Plan FAQ (Alberta Government):

In Alberta, the province's Water Act provides for the transfer of an allocation of water held under a licence, from one parcel of land to another.  The transfer may be in the form of a licensee transferring an allocation of water to another parcel of land, a project owned by the same licensee, or to a project owned by another person.  A licence must be in good standing before the Director can consider a transfer application.

Types of transfers:
  • Permanent transfers - Part or all of the water allocation is permanently transferred.
  • Temporary Transfer - Part or all of the water allocation is transferred on a temporary basis and reverts to the existing licensee after an agreed period of time.
Eligible water allocations involve allocated water that has been used under a licence but is no longer required, due to water conservation or other planned reduction in need.
Non-eligible water allocations:
  • Water licensed for temporary diversion
  • A prior transfer licence whose allocation is to revert to the original licence after a specified period of time
  • A right to divert for household purposes
  • A right to divert water through a registration
  • A right to divert water through an approval
  • An anticipated right to divert water through a preliminary certificate
The Approved Water Management Plan for the South Saskatchewan River Basin (Alberta) dated August 2006 authorized water allocation transfers and water conservation holdbacks.

SSRB Water Management Plan 10% Holdback - Interim Criteria Approval Document established a consistent criteria when considering water allocation transfers that facilitate the creation of regional treated water systems.

Approvals Program Policy Guideline for Implementation of Water Conservation Objectives, as amended, established under the Water Act, in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (dated January 16, 2007) - established Water Conservations for the SSRB.

The Approved Water Management Plan for the South Saskatchewan River Basin (Alberta) (the "SSRB Plan") authorizes the Director to consider applications to transfer water allocations, subject to sections 81-83 of the Water Act and the Matters and Factors in Table 1 of the SSRB Plan. This ability to change the point of diversion or point of use of a water allocation under a licence is necessary within sub-basins closed to new surface water licences to allow new developments to locate in these sub-basins. Where a transfer is proposed, section 83 of the Water Act permits the Director to withhold up to 10% of the transferred water if the holdback is authorized under an approved water management plan, and the Director is of the opinion that withholding water is in the public interest to: a) protect the aquatic environment, or b) implement a water conservation objective ("WC0'').1

Section 2.7.2 of the SSRB Plan authorizes the Director to withhold up to 10% of the volume of a transferred allocation, and recommends that: the Director withhold I 0%, unless there is a compelling reason to withhold less; and withheld water remain in the river through a WCO licence or become part of the Crown Reservation.

The current Government of Alberta guidance on what constitutes a compelling reason to not take the I 0% holdback was developed in 2011 in response to the establishment of a number of regional drinking water systems within the SSRB. At that time, the Government of Alberta was actively funding several of these systems which are sanctioned as a key action within the Water for Life Strategy- "Design and implement regional drinking water and wastewater solutions"

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