The ever-flowing issue of Cochrane's water license was back in the headlines this week, after recent Town council discussions centred around the municipality's current license with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas to draw water from the Bow River – a license that is approaching its capacity.
As Cochrane's population approaches and possibly surpasses 40,000 people in the next four or five years, (as is projected), the Town's license to withdraw water from the Bow River could max out. That means a solution will have to be determined soon on how to sustain the community's water needs while balancing an ongoing population increase.
This isn't a new story, as it's been a cyclical issue during local elections as well as in local media coverage in recent years.
As many Cochranites are aware, there's been a moratorium on new license applications in the South Saskatchewan River Basin since 2006. This means municipalities nearing their water license capacities, such as Cochrane, have to reduce water consumption or encourage water conservation among residents. That could mean limiting summertime watering or encouraging the installation of low-flow toilets.
There's also the option of something called water license 'transfers,' which are essentially when a municipality purchases additional water from a separate license holder. The Town of Cochrane is exploring these transfers, but they are costly, as water has become a hot commodity on the open market.
Perhaps ironically, it's not the water supply that's the issue – it's not like the Bow River is going to dry up if Cochrane were to draw more water from it. Rather, the problem is that the Town of Cochrane can't expand its capacity to draw more water from the river, even though it's there.
It's curious – though some residents might use a different word – that Cochrane continues to allow for the development of new subdivisions and neighbourhoods despite its water license being nearly at capacity, and despite other infrastructural shortfalls within the community. With more residential and commercial developments coming down the pipe in the next few years, it's hard to imagine Cochrane's water license issues drying up anytime soon.