As the snow melts, it has caused me to consider the value I place in water and particularly drinking water. I am very supportive of St. Albert’s Environmental Master Plan that has set a water use target of 200 litres per person per day by 2020.
The promotion of low flow water appliances, combined with the proposed 2018 implementation of a Water Conservation Bylaw, are definite signs of progressive thinking on the part of city council. Consequently, you might now understand my confusion when this same council also gave its approval for a 20 acre “swimming hole” that will be for the exclusive use of Jensen Lakes residents. Quite aside from the water draining the green space immediately adjacent to the “hole,” the only likely source of water is from the public drinking water distribution system. It seems the logic of the proposed Jensen Lakes residents association paying for the privilege of dumping drinking water into the hole was sufficient enough to warrant approval. However, I consider this to be an extravagant and wasteful use of drinking water. It does not follow the spirit of the water conservation programs St. Albert is requesting residents to buy into.
The whole emphasis of St. Albert’s water conservation messaging has been directed at intensifying the efficiency of water use. While I support water features to naturalize the urban landscape, and their value in diminishing the need for significant investments in drainage infrastructure, I fail to see the merit of taking a valued resource like drinking water to fill and maintain a 20-acre water hole for passive aesthetics, and other casual recreational uses like boating. It is an unacceptable indulgence at a time when we have rural and First Nations communities on boil water advisories because reliable treated drinking water is not available to them.
Recent federal and provincial budget commitments to extend drinking water lines to these communities highlights the significant value placed on reliable treated water. I object to treated water being used to fill and maintain the proposed swimming hole, just because Jensen Lakes residents are willing to pay for it. I believe there are options for developing an innovative water feature without using treated water. By the time the developer applies to build the “hole” it will be too late to consider options.
Most troubling for me is the contradiction in water use and conservation messaging at a time this council and the provincial government are espousing “water conservation” and reducing carbon use. Treated water comes at an economic and environmental cost. While large private water bodies continue to be promoted by developers, their reliance on domestically treated water supplies have made them a relic of a time past. There was a time when water supplies were abundant and cheap, and there was little regard to their environmental costs. Much has changed in the last 20 years, yet St. Albert embraces this water use dinosaur; I believe St. Albert residents should feel trumped unless changes are made.
Ken Crutchfield, St. Albert