By Trevor Busch
Continuing to discharge the town’s raw stormwater directly into the Taber Irrigation District’s (TID) system will not be an option in the future, according to the district’s general manager.
Heading a delegation from the TID at town council’s Oct. 14 meeting, district manager Chris Gallagher pointed out that an increasing emphasis on water quality is putting pressure on irrigation districts in the province to be cognizant of the quality of water they are receiving from multiple sources.
“It’s important to understand it is the processors that are demanding corporate social responsibility. This isn’t just us arbitrarily deciding this is something good we should do, this is coming from our potato growers association, McCain’s, Lamb Weston, Frito-Lay — they’re all saying be responsible with your water, make sure that you’re doing the best you can with delivering quality of water.”
Gallagher provided an overview of where the TID’s relevant works are located, where they receive runoff and stormwater from the town, and how it is conveyed to the area’s watershed system.
“Water gets pumped from the slough across the dike and into the (Taber) reservoir. That happens periodically, every few years, or whenever that slough gets too full,” said Gallagher.
“The other areas free flow, in other words there is no retention whatsoever. It runs through open ditches and pipelines through to the Taber Reservoir. It extends from roughly McDonald’s all the way east. A pipe comes across to the north Highway 3 ditch, and at the Super 8 a little further to the east. All that drainage from the south is now running through the Highway 3 ditch.
Then there’s the Wal-Mart area, there’s a number of catch basins in this area, and this eventually all ends up in the south Highway 3 ditch, and then through culverts over to the north Highway 3 ditch. From the north Highway 3 ditch it continues to run east, and it all discharges into our Lateral 15 Canal. Once it comes across the highway and the tracks, we receive some site drainage from Roger’s Sugar, and that continues on to Taber Reservoir.”
The TID consists of 82,822 irrigated acres, three irrigation reservoirs (Horsefly, Taber and Fincastle), 142 km of canals, 195 km of pipelines, and extends geographically from Cranford to east of Purple Springs, and from the St. Mary’s River main canal south to the ‘big bend’ area in the north.
The TID’s Strategic Plan was outlined, which highlighted the district’s goals and objectives relating to stormwater and runoff.
“Our first goal on there is to provide the best possible water quality to our water users,” said Gallagher.
“That’s done through monitoring, and starting next year we’re looking at mitigation, which is basically improving the situation we have now, by prioritizing problems, collaboration in improving land management, and developing administrative tools such as water conveyance agreements. Our other related goal is ensure that the Town of Taber is included in any collaboration.”
Gallagher went on to explain why and how the TID needs to be engaged as the town develops master stormwater management plan and designs the system that discharges to the district’s works.
“Why do you need to engage with the TID? Well, as you can see, we’re receiving water from the town. Our reservoir is privately owned and operated — we’re not a natural water body. The water that we receive gets used for crops, and can be used for livestock as well. We’re concerned about the volume, the rate, the timing, and the quality of the runoff that we’re receiving from the town. You need to understand that consent is needed from the TID in order to obtain the required approvals under the Water Act to discharge into our works, and that this Water Act approval is required for this activity, and is not currently in place.”
The TID would like to work together with the Town of Taber to achieve their mutual goals.
“TID is willing to be an active partner in helping this happen, through planning, helping to establish the scope of work, understanding what facility components are required, who would own and operate those components and whose land they would be situated on, what outcomes we’re expecting from this, and working out a reasonable implementation plan,” said Gallagher. “On the administrative side, I talked about water conveyance agreements, and then any associated fees and levies that might go along with that. And also in helping you obtain that Water Act approval, which is required. We will not force the town to sign an agreement that contradicts or undermines any existing government act. We want to be a co-operative and active partner under these circumstances.
Gallagher expressed the TID’s position on the expectations for receiving water from the town and how this relates to the Water Act and Irrigation Districts Act, including hydrology (rate, timing and volume of flow); water quality (concentration limits for various parameters); timelines (when required changes are to be implemented); and a water conveyance agreement.
“We expect you to consult with the current stormwater policies and guidelines, and to use some best management practices. Hydrology — no free flow into TID works. You will need to detain and control the release of that water before it enters our works.”
Some best management practices for stormwater include dry ponds, wet ponds, engineered wetlands, constructed wetlands, stormwater capture and reuse, and infiltration basins.
Free flows of town stormwater into TID works will have to be discontinued in the future, added Gallagher.
“That’s part of why there’s a five year window on the implementation plan. Basically that means that water that is currently free-flowing into our reservoir would need to be detained, treated and released in a controlled manner meeting our water quality objectives. I can’t dictate to you specifically how that is going to happen, but I’m certainly going to work with your engineering department to help look at different alternatives to help make that happen.”
Coun. Joe Strojwas remarked this might not be feasible considering the lack of a suitable location for a stormwater retention pond in the town’s southeast area, which drains much of the town’s industrial park.
“I can understand that on the west side of Taber Lake, because there’s a pond there that the town can develop. But the water coming from the south end along Highway 3 that goes in between the sugar factory, there’s no real resource to develop a holding pond in that area. What do you suggest happens there?”
Gallagher suggested there are options that can be considered to help the Town of Taber deal with its stormwater problems.
“First of all, we want to take a look at development in the Wal-Mart area, because there could be opportunity to redirect some of the flow for retention there. That might help some of the problem, it’s not going to solve all of the problems. And then in other areas where it is coming in, there might be other best management practices to look at there. That might be the best you can do. The other alternative, of course, it to redirect that water that is currently free-flowing into the reservoir along the west side of the dike, to be incorporated into a larger stormwater detention and treatment facility there.”
The TID will be open to considering less conventional solutions to stormwater issues, even entertaining the possibility of using TID land to help the town achieve its drainage goals.
“I’m just coming up with conceptual ideas at this point, and I’m certainly willing to work with your engineering department to expand on some of those ideas,” said Gallagher. “The other thing I talked to your department about is we have lands adjacent there that we might be able to incorporate and help you use our lands. If you’re ‘landlocked’, per se, some of those facilities may not have to be required on Town of Taber property. We want our goals achieved as much as you do.”
Coun. Strojwas — referencing current serious drainage issues plaguing the town’s industrial area and the need for an immediate solution — pressed Gallagher for advice in helping to improve flow rates.
Gallagher replied this might not be an option without significant prior consultation at various levels of government as well as the consent of the TID.
“If you’re changing the rate of flow and potentially the water quality going directly into our reservoir, we may have a problem with that.”
Coun. Strojwas seemed confused as to why changing the rate of flow would trigger an extensive approvals process.
“We wouldn’t be changing the amount of water, we would just be adding an extra culvert to expedite the water that leaves town to enter into Taber Lake. It’s not that we would be adding more, we would just be facilitating the movement of it. That water is going to end up in Taber Lake regardless, so I don’t understand why there would have to be an approval by Alberta Environment when already that water ends up there. It’s just expediting how quickly it gets there.”
Gallagher pointed out that change of flow rate is a primary criteria for approval under the Water Act.
“That’s one of the criteria that triggers a Water Act approval, is the rate of flow. That change, and you would have to be consulting with Alberta Environment. Based on my interpretation of the Water Act, it would require approval under the Water Act. That’s not my regulations, that’s the Alberta government’s regulations — it would be mandatory to obtain approval under the Water Act. And TID would be invited to participate in that process because as the owner of the receiving water body, we would need to provide consent in order for that approval.”
Gallagher’s presentation was accepted as information.