A water licence issue that has existed for over a decade continues to challenge Cochrane and will have to be resolved before the population reaches 40,000.

Currently, the town has an estimated population of 30,065 and its current water licence is expected to accommodate between seven and eight years of growth.

Subdivisions already approved but not yet built are estimated to accommodate a population of 32,002 and developments at the land-use stage of approval would accommodate a population of 52,682. At full build-out, Cochrane is on track to reach a population of 57,890.

Somewhat helping the scenario is a continued cool-off in development activity. Planner II Adam Nordquist told council 303 new homes were built in 2020, down from 368 the year previous. A total of 153 development permits were issued, down from 191 in 2019. Both are lower in comparison to years of booming growth that at one time made Cochrane the fastest growing town in Canada.

Nordquist told council the town has between 15 and 18 years of land supply in areas with approved land use. 

Drew Hyndman, the town's general manager of Development and Community Services, told council the ball hasn't been dropped on the water licence issue.

"We continue to work on our water strategy. We're exploring what different water licences could potentially be available on the Bow and other opportunities for the town."

Without pointing fingers, Councillor Alex Reed expressed frustration over the lack of progress.

"We're coming to the end of a four-year term, and this was kind of an issue going into our four-year term. I'm not suggesting anyone is at fault or blame, I'm just personally a little frustrated that we haven't been able to make greater headway on this."

Mayor Jeff Genung says the town needs to pressure Environment and Parks minister Jason Nixon to get movement on regulation changes that are expected to improve the water licence situation for Cochrane and several other municipalities.

"That's going to play a key role in moving some of that legislation that you referred to forward so we can get some of the changes on a provincial level that will assist us in our decision-making at the municipal level."

Tara McFadden, the longest-serving town councillor, pointed out not having a water supply is what stalled growth in Okotoks.

"It's something we've been trying to find a solution for 15-plus years, and it's been difficult. Working with different provincial governments and its different layers is what's making it more difficult, but it's becoming with each year more and more pressing."

Council will be receiving quarterly updates from town administration on the issue.