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Major water users in southern Alberta agree to curb consumption in face of drought

CALGARY — Major water users in southern Alberta have agreed to curb their consumption if there’s a severe drought this spring or summer. 

Rebecca Schulz, the provincial environment minister, says it won’t be known whether the agreements need to be acted upon until snowpack information comes in later this month. 

The Alberta government has announced water-sharing agreements covering four sub-basins — the Red Deer River, the Bow River, the mainstem of the Oldman River and upper tributaries of the Oldman. 

Participating municipalities have agreed to cut their water consumption by between five and 10 per cent if needed, and Schulz says some have begun doing so proactively. 

The 38 licensees that signed the deals — municipalities, irrigation districts and industries — cover 90 per cent of the water allocated in the Bow and Oldman basins and 70 per cent in the Red Deer River basin. 

Alex Ostrop with the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association says farmers have had to make tough decisions about which crops to allocate water to in the short-term, and many are looking to focus on higher-value ones like potatoes and sugar beets as opposed to grain. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 19, 2024.  

The Canadian Press

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