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Lethbridge cutting back on water use as part of provincial water sharing agreement

The City of Lethbridge is cutting back water usage as part of the largest water sharing agreement in Alberta's history. (CTV News) The City of Lethbridge is cutting back water usage as part of the largest water sharing agreement in Alberta's history. (CTV News)
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LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -

The province has announced the largest water sharing agreement in Alberta’s history, which will see Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, among other municipalities, cut water use.

More than three dozen stakeholders are promising to cut back on water usage so there's enough water to go around in case of drought.

Despite recent snowfall, many are predicting severe drought in Alberta this summer, especially in the south.

The new water sharing agreement is intended to help mitigate the impact of a drought this summer.

“Thanks to these new forward-looking water sharing agreements, communities will have the water they need to drink, to ensure we're protecting human health, to fight wildfires as well,” said Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz.

The deal is made up of four separate agreements for the Red Deer River, Bow River and the mainstream and upper tributaries of the Oldman River.

The agreement will see Lethbridge and other municipalities including Medicine Hat cut water use by 10 per cent.

“We'll be asking people and incentivizing things like xeriscaping, using rain barrels, anything they can do. Shortened shower times to reduce that time to no more than five minutes,” said Joel Sanchez, director of infrastructure services for the City of Lethbridge.

Participating industries will use the minimum amount of water needed to maintain operations.

Irrigation districts are also cutting back and will use whatever water is left over.

“Irrigation districts are going to make sure that there's enough for human health as a top priority and livestock. Crops are going to have to be last,” said Shannon Frank, executive director of the Oldman Watershed Council.

The water sharing agreement is in response to an unusually dry winter that's left rivers and reservoirs much drier than usual.

Less snow pack than usual also means the spring runoff may not be able to fill reservoirs.

“The snowpack is at the very low end of the natural range so they may not fill completely,” Frank said.

The City of Lethbridge is considering all options to cut back on water, including mandatory water restrictions that could start as early as next month.

“The main factors here will be water levels in the reservoirs. The river flows, the level of water that's coming through the rivers and at the same time we're using the snowpack,” said Sanchez.

The environment minister says a decision will be made on whether to act upon the agreement when snowpack data comes in later this month.

Starting in May, water amounts will be updated every two weeks.

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