Continued rapid growth has brought Cochrane within 6,000 people of tapping out its water licence capacity and with new major developments coming onstream, time is running out on acquiring an additional volume.
The town has been working on its water licence acquisition strategy and more information is expected to be available within the next few weeks. As recently as Feb. 21, town council went in-camera to discuss the strategy and subregional wastewater strategy. No motions came out of the session.
In April 2021, town administration told council there was enough water licence capacity for 40,000 people. It was estimated to have an adequate water supply for 5.5 – 6.4 years of growth.
That same development summary report stated Cochrane's population was 32,199, and there was enough room in the licence to support another 7,801 residents, equating to approximately 3,000 dwellings.
By the end of 2022, the town's population was estimated at 34,007 with 540 new dwellings available, including single-family, multi-unit residential, and accessory suites.
Having adequate water to accommodate anticipated growth is not a new issue for Cochrane. Discussions date back well over a decade ago. It has been raised by candidates in several town council elections, including some of the members elected.
The Bow River is a closed basin and no new water permits are being issued. To meet additional water demands, communities must reduce their water use, arrange water licence transfers, or purchase water from another licence holder.
A mitigation program addressing water loss from the town's systems was presented at the Feb. 14 town council meeting as part of the proposed 2023 water and wastewater rates.
Shane Hubl, director of operational services, told council that Cochrane's water loss was 552 million litres in 2021, which is equivalent to the annual water used by 3,270 homes.
Invoiced, that amounts to $773,000 and held a $5.9 million value should the town have purchased an additional licence on the open market for that quality of water.
The bylaw received first reading and will be returning for consideration for approval.