There is sufficient water in the Red Deer River to meet demands: report

A new report shows the amount of water allocated from the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance is well within target limits, but suggests remaining vigilant.

A new report shows the amount of water allocated from the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance is well within target limits, but suggests remaining vigilant.

Current allocations are 335 million cubic metres (335 billion litres) annually, not all of which is used. That is enough water to fill Gleniffer Lake twice.

The province has set the maximum allocation at 600 million cubic metres, with a temporary halt to new licences kicking in at 550 million cubic metres.

“What it means is there is water in the river sufficient to meet the demands without stressing the river,” said Tom Cottrell, alliance spokesman.

Whether that remains the case depends on how the river is managed in the future.

While the numbers are on the right side of the ledger now, the report for the alliance recommends that it is important to balance water demand with supplies while taking into account seasonal fluctuations and extreme conditions such as drought.

“Going forward, it depends on weather, climate, demands, runoff, rain, snow all of those things that determine the volume of water in the river,” he said.

The report by Calgary’s 02 Planning + Design reviewed surface water quantity and groundwater resources while establishing draft outcomes, indicators and targets for management.

It is the third of four technical reports being prepared for the watershed alliance ahead of a draft Integrated Watershed Management Plan.

The latest report recommends that floods be anticipated and steps taken to reduce their damage by restricting development in flood-prone areas, maintaining existing water patterns in developed areas as much as possible and taking steps to build flood protection where necessary.

Also recommended is that more research be done on the role of surface water in river flow.

Groundwater was also examined in the report and the current annual draw of 37 million cubic metres (37 billion litres), a “small fraction of the total available groundwater supplies.”

Those abundant resources, though, can be put at risk by over-development in certain areas, industrial and agricultural activity and the lack of a system for monitoring the volumes and quality of groundwater.

It is recommended that more studying and monitoring be done and water licences be handed out on a sustainability basis.

The fourth technical report will focus on biodiversity on the water and surrounding land areas and is expected to be completed this summer.

A draft watershed management plan is expected to be completed early next year, more than a year behind schedule, mostly because of funding issues and personnel changes.

Cottrell said the plan will be provide a “series of recommendations; good ideas on what should be done in the watershed in order to manage the water for long-term sustainability.”

The alliance is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting a healthy watershed. It receives funding from more than 40 municipalities, the province, as well as industry and agricultural organizations.

Created in 2005, the alliance is one of 11 watershed planning and advisory councils across the province.

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