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27th May 2015

A shortage of water licences is beginning to have an adverse effect on development in Cypress County, Alberta.

Denied by Alberta Environment a few years ago to buy some additional water rights at what Coun. Garry Lentz said was at a “reasonable price and in fair quantity,” the situation is now becoming serious. “Now we need the water and we’re having problems getting water rights,” said Lentz.

Kathleen Murphy, ERSD water approvals manager for southern Alberta, was joined by two colleagues last Tuesday at a Cypress County meeting at which water was high on the agenda.

Because there was no “bonafide need” for water licences when the county earlier applied, licences were not issued. “Municipalities and irrigation districts are a little different in that we do allow for an allocation to be issued for a 10-year projection on what your water demand will be,” said Murphy. “What we cannot do is issue licences for some of the speculatives.”

Coun. Darcy Geigle told Murphy the situation had changed since their previous application with a new $15-million Dunmore-Irvine-Walsh water pipeline set to be completed this July. The county has built the necessary infrastructure to carry water to two new housing developments along the pipeline’s course, but does not yet have the water licences necessary to meet those developments’ needs.

“The need has overtaken our water licence,” stated Geigle. “And now we are in the dilemma where we have to wait a year-and-a-half just to find out if (a deal on water rights with a property owner) is in good standing or not.”

Donna McColl, ERSD senior water technologist, explained that the reason the process was so slow was because the Alberta government has made it a priority to deal with outstanding flood claims from 2013. Her department is short-staffed in processing water licencing and water rights transfer agreements.

The Dunmore-Irvine-Walsh claim is now next in the cue in southern Alberta to be dealt with, said McColl.

McColl said she didn’t think the country’s request for more water would be denied, given the county’s demonstrated need along the Dunmore-Irvine-Walsh line, but warned delays could come in other ways.