Southern Farmers Celebrate The End Of Empty Cisterns

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Turning a tap for instant water ceased being a luxury years ago for most Albertans. In fact, it is considered a right.

Barry McFarland of Carmangay, MLA for Little Bow constituency, knows better. He says that’s why he supported strongly the development and construction of the North County Potable Water Co-op and construction of a pipeline linking hundreds of rural and hamlet residents to City of Lethbridge water.

The sod was officially turned on that project at the Sundial Community Hall Oct. 14.

Bill Hamman of Lethbridge, co-op chairman, said the Little Bow Phase of the massive rural water pipeline project was the focus of the sod turning. Other parts of the bigger project are still on the drawing board. Hamman said more infrastructure is needed to supply rural water to Monarch, Picture Butte and Diamond City. That should happen late in 2010. The Town of Picture Butte is also negotiating a separate plan to secure City of Lethbridge water.

Construction is expected to start in early November for the first phase, which includes 108 units in the Turin-Iron Springs areas. All rural customers will get water from the City of Lethbriuge. Nobleford will supply treated water from its modern water treatment plant for unit holders in the vicinity of that community.

McFarland, like many rural residents in southern Alberta, hauled water from a community well for the first 19 years of farming with his wife and four children. That changed in 1989-90 when a water co-op was established and a pipeline built linking members to a source of potable water.

“We all got two gallons a minute,” said McFarland. “It sure didn’t seem like much water at first, but it has been a Godsend.”

McFarland allows the water to flow into a cistern near his house, giving his family enough fresh water for household needs and to permit farmstead beautification with a garden, trees and flowers.

“I think there is even enough water through the pipeline for a landowner to consider a small business or to get involved in an agri-business venture that requires some water,” he said. “In many areas, producers hands are tied relying on a truck to haul water or a well that might go dry. It is even iffy trying to spray your own crops if you don’t have assured water.”


Gone, but not forgotten, are all those times the cistern ran dry, then driving to the well, fighting freezing valves and water lines and then hoping to be able to dump the water into the cistern.

County of Lethbridge reeve Lorne Hickey, who farms west of Wilson Siding, continues to haul water to his 1,500-gallon cistern, but that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for potable water pipelines. He said the North County Potable Water Co-op will deliver 500 gallons a day of Lethbridge water to unit holders, enough to meet most domestic water needs. He agrees the tri-party funding agreement is a major bonus for unit holders.

“Imagine what it would cost with the federal and provincial government sharing the cost.”

Hickey said any water pipeline in the county means a better quality of life for ratepayers.

The county has no ownership in the North County or the other major pipeline project linking Lethbridge with the Town of Coaldale and the McCain’s Canada french fry processing plant that also serves many landowners. But it helped negotiate larger-than-planned pipe to accommodate more users for both projects.

Hickey said it all comes down to economics. While most communities in the county get water from the Lethbridge Northern or St. Mary River irrigation districts, it required expensive water treatment plants at all locations. Stricter regulations from Alberta Environment simply increased potential costs that were better managed by linking many users through a single pipeline.

Rick Casson, Lethbridge MP and one of the supporters of the North County pipeline, said the project received some funding through the Build Canada Fund will supply water to hundreds of county ratepayers while helping to inject funds and jobs to rebuilding the economy.

Casson said the water isn’t even flowing yet, but talk to Richard Papworth on his farm at the extreme northern areas of the pipeline project and you will quickly understand how important it is to such landowners. That family this year celebrated 100 years on the same land, and now it will have piped potable water for the first time.

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