The water supply/water licensing allocation issue in Okotoks was identified back in the mid-1980s. In 1985, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) placed a moratorium on the Sheep River, the Town’s water resource. This meant that the province prohibited any new water license applications for the Sheep River.
A moratorium on all new water license transfer requests on the Sheep River was imposed with the introduction of the South Saskatchewan Water Management Plan in 2006. This meant a restriction on new water licenses, the establishment of water conservation objectives and water license transfer holdbacks.
Between 2001 and 2009, there was an approximately 44% increase in population growth. In 2012, an Okotoks Town Council decision is made to support a continuous growth model for Okotoks in response to growth in close proximity to Okotoks. This added to the pressure on the Town to secure a long-term supplemental water supply solution. This was the beginning of the annexation process, which was finalized in 2017.
In 2015, the Town created a formal Okotoks/Calgary water pipeline proposal. In 2017, due to changes in provincial regulatory process and exorbitant costs making the Okotoks/Calgary pipeline no longer feasible, the Town began pursuing other water supply options.
In December 2019, Okotoks Town Council approved an adjustment to the timeline for a supplemental water pipeline. Extending the timeframe creates an opportunity for the Town to work with regional partners, Foothills County. The date to begin construction has been extended until 2024 in the 10 year Capital Plan.
Detailed designs, AEP and budget approvals as well as and funding requests are expected to be in place by 2021. The Town believes it is important to have these components of the project fast-tracked in order to be a part of the rebounding Alberta economy and be ready to grow at a pace only Alberta can sustain. Having these processes in place will:
- Stimulate growth and jobs; at this time, we are unable to allow future commercial and industrial developments as our existing water supply has been fully allocated for current building and population.
- Promote a shovel-ready project for investment by stakeholders such as developers and the Provincial and Federal governments, by giving them more flexibility on when to invest.
- Promote a shovel-ready project if the need becomes urgent by removing a 18-24 month delay.
By completing the design and approval process, we will be able to proceed when we need to and take advantage of current favourable consulting prices (prices are expected to rise in the next 2 years) and possible future construction prices. Having this process complete may also avoid future application of any additional, or more stringent, requirements as guidelines and requirements change.
With the expected approval of the new MDP, “Uniquely Okotoks,” it is the Town's obligation to secure the community's future which will be controlled by water access. The sooner access is secured, the more confidence residents and investors will have of Okotoks' future.
Once construction begins, the pipeline and associate infrastructure will be undertaken in a phased approach. It is estimated that the project will be completed within approximately 2 years.