The Town of Okotoks is ready to step up when it comes to drought preparedness.

At their Jan. 8 meeting, town council reviewed a letter from Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz urging all of Alberta's municipalities to prepare for worsening drought conditions this year.

The letter included four steps municipalities are being asked to undertake as proactive measures:

  1. Initiate efforts to monitor water supply infrastructure proactively, paying particular attention to water intake relative to water levels. 
  2. Begin a review of the terms of your municipality’s water licence so you are aware of any conditions that may limit your ability to withdraw water during a drought.
  3. Alert municipal water managers to prepare to be engaged with officials from the Drought Command Team, should conditions within your municipal water licence need to be triggered.
  4. Develop a water shortage plan so your municipality is prepared to respond if water availability decreases.

Fortunately, Okotoks is well-versed in water conservation measures and practices, largely stemming from the town's longstanding limited water supply.

During the meeting, councillor Swendseid noted that Okotoks has already completed or is in the process of completing all four of the measures in Schulz's letter.

The town has had a water shortage plan in place for at least six years and has made use of an outdoor watering schedule since 2008.

Okotoks entered stage two of the four-stage water conservation plan in 2022 and 2023, and saw reduced water usage levels from residents as a result.

The most recent instance was in June of 2023 due to the Sheep River's low flow level, which the town regularly monitors.

Residents are also encouraged to participate in water conservation through the town's Water Conservation Rebate Program, which provides rebates for a wide range of items including a variety of drought-tolerant plants, rain barrels, turf alternatives, and WaterSense toilets.

With that said, the town is still looking at ways to further conserve water and prepare for worsening drought conditions.

Council's Jan. 15 Governance and Priorities Committee Meeting agenda includes an update on water management, including possible changes to the watering schedule.