Alberta Environment and Parks, which looks after the Pine Coulee Reservoir west of Stavely, is looking for a way to have the downstream water users report their usage and asked the Municipal District (MD) of Willow Creek for some assistance.
The MD in turn suggested it could advertise a potential meeting and provide a place to meet.
At MD council’s July 14 meeting, Paul Elser, Dave Hunt and Stephen Mathyk of Alberta Environment appeared as a delegation via video conference to discuss water levels at Pine Coulee.
“We’re short on water,” Elser said, noting there is always a risk Pine Coulee will not be filled right up.
Over the last seven years water from the reservoir has been used to supplement demand.
Demand then has led to a draw down of the reservoir.
It could get to the point the reservoir is cut off and irrigation is not available for part of the season.
He said they also have the licence to operate the reservoir, but it is tough because they do not have a complete picture of demand.
This may lead to more water being released than needs to be.
Mathyk said he deals with the authority and compliance related to licensing on the Willow Creek. His role is to ensure licencees understand the conditions of their licences and comply.
The main concern is for people to understand the variety of in-stream flow conditions, such as timing, flow levels, and reservoir elevations. If one of these is exceeded and there is a requirement to cease irrigation, there is an economic impact.
He noted they have a real challenge when they do not have the information on the amount of water used downstream.
At this point, he said, they want to provide education. They want to make licence owners aware of the conditions of their licences and report water use information. They are supposed to report on a monthly basis, but that varies with each user.
Elser said there was a user group on the Willow Creek at one time that provided input into construction of the Pine Coulee Reservoir.
There is value in having an organized user group to be able to get information on water demand.
He said they were reaching out to the MD council to see a user group organized.
That would provide the information to see what demand looks like.
Reeve Maryanne Sandberg said right now they are okay for water.
Elser responded they are okay for now, but were coming to the MD because there was low run-off this year.
There is a concern they are starting to see a trend taking them where the reservoir is not filled much.
Sandberg said they are asking for some form of water group to be formed, so the M.D. could put information on its social media.
Coun. Ian Sundquist said, as an irrigator, it is tough to report water use at the end of the year, much less every month. But the MD can put information on social media because this issue has to be dealt with.
Coun. Glen Alm said Alberta Environment has all the pertinent
information, that is who the water users are, so it seems Alberta Environment has the ability to tell people to report their usage and form a group.
Sandberg observed it is complicated to start reporting when utilizing the website to report usage. She suggested offering courses to show water users how to report.
Alm said maybe the MD could be the conduit and provide a facility for a meeting.
Elser said they were looking for support, and it would be helpful to have the MD’s support.
“Anything we can do to help,” Sandberg said, adding the MD could try to help with social media and maybe providing a meeting place.
Coun. Evan Berger said Alberta Environment has all the information on users and they can tell people to get their act together or they may run out of water.
Sundquist added Alberta Environment has to provide the names first. The MD would gladly host a meeting but Alberta Environment has to decide how it works.
Sandberg said it is fine to provide information on the MD’s website and provide a meeting place but it is not the MD’s role to get names and do that.
Sundquist said they could get a list of names, contact people to get them to work together, and have a meeting.
Alm said Alberta Environment has the list and they know what the problem is.
“This is between the water users and (Alberta) Environment,” he said.
“I think it’s their job.”
Sundquist pointed out the MD does have an iron in the fire because it has a municipal water source with the hamlet of Granum.
Sandberg said Alberta Environment has to be responsible for initiating the meeting with the water users. The MD can advertise it and provide a meeting place.