Residents not giving up on water concerns
Black Diamond: Grassroots group worried water restrictions will become the norm
Wednesday, Feb 14, 2018 09:43 am
Black Diamond residents behind a failed petition to stop a large-scale development in town until local water restrictions are lifted aren’t backing down.
Rosemary McCarroll, a member of the Black Diamond Development Group, said they will attend Municipal Planning Commission and other committee meetings to stay abreast of future development proposals and provide input on any revisions to land use bylaws.
“I feel that if the Town couldn’t supply unrestricted water to the current residents, how can the Town justify approving a development permit that allows for roughly 400 new residents,” she said, referring to the proposed Mountain View Village development west of Oilfields General Hospital.
Residents in Black Diamond and Turner Valley have been facing water restrictions since the 2013 flood washed away all but two wells in the two towns and Black Diamond’s water treatment plant.
Turner Valley’s water treatment plant is providing both communities with water and the Towns have been working to find adequate water sources to bring supplies back to pre-flood levels.
The Black Diamond Development Group formed last year after learning about the proposed three apartment buildings and 10 villas near Oilfields Hospital.
McCarroll said water seemed to be the main issue when group members talked to residents about the project.
In response, the group put together a petition insisting the Town stop approving large development permits until a long-term water supply is in place and water restrictions are no longer needed.
The petition, which received approximately 400 signatures, came before Town council last fall but was denied. According to the Municipal Government Act, petitions requesting a new bylaw or amendment or repeal of a bylaw or resolution has no effect.
Carl Fisher, who signed the petition, said he wants to see an end to restrictions once adequate water is in place.
Alberta Environment recently approved a direct intake in the Sheep River south of Turner Valley’s raw water reservoir that is expected to bring the amount of water supplied to the two towns to the level it was before the flood.
Fisher said he’s concerned that Level 2 water restrictions, which restrict outdoor water use on specific days, will become the norm.
“There should be no restrictions except for exceptional circumstances,” he said.
“If Level 2 is the norm there is going to be restrictions all the time.
“Before the flood we didn’t have restrictions, only under certain circumstances.”
Fisher said he would like the Sheep River Regional Utility Corporation (SRRUC), which holds the rights to water supplied to both towns, to establish a policy or mission statement where potable water is supplied to customers with no restrictions as long as adequate water is available.
Harry Riva-Cambrin, SRRUC chief executive officer, said water conservation bylaws are the mandate of towns, not the corporation.
“What SRRUC does is we monitor the reservoir levels and there have been certain levels set so when the reservoir is drawn down to a certain point then we notify the towns,” he said.
“Then the towns have to take whatever action they decide on how to deal with that situation.”
SRRUC’s existing wells and infiltration gallery are currently drawing 68 per cent of the amount of water that was collected by both Black Diamond and Turner Valley before the 2013 flood, said Riva-Cambrin.
As a result, when the raw water reservoir drops to 70 per cent capacity the corporation informs the Towns, which typically respond with restrictions.
“When the reservoir is below a certain level you have to start restricting who gets the water, such as car washes,” he said. “Restrictions usually come into play when there’s a drought.”
Residents in both towns have been on water restrictions since the flood. All outdoor water use was restricted for more than a year after the flood and three weeks during last summer’s drought.
Riva-Cambrin said SRRUC still has a way to go to.
“Really, what we have is a one-year history where Black Diamond and Turner Valley have fully relied on this,” he said. “We’re really not finished building the system and the last cog in the wheel here is this direct intake and stilling basin and that will reduce the risk substantially of having a situation in the reservoir that is unmanageable.”
The CEO said he’s surprised at the amount of concern in the communities regarding water.
“I find it curious that there’s so much concern about this,” he said. “You look at Okotoks that has no reservoir, they (the residents) are totally reliant on the flow of the Sheep (River) and they’re more than 30,000 people.”
Recapturing the water the towns lost during the flood takes time, Riva-Cambrin said.
“This last little project, once that’s done, puts everything back to the way it was,” he said.