Cochrane should take steps to fix water management policy

Town should take steps to fix water management policy by Judy Stewart, August 8, 2012, Cochrane Eagle
Pathway 2 of the Cochrane Sustainability Plan states: “We treat water as a precious resource.” … Our regional water management system is out of balance in epic proportions with respect to promoting the economic interests of a few entrepreneurs and their shareholders in the oil and gas industry over the social and environmental interests of people and non-human nature in the Cochrane area. Cochrane’s water allocation licence clearly stipulates that water diverted from the Bow River under the conditions of our relatively small license is to be used for “municipal purposes” or for urban water supply. Fracking is not a recognized “municipal purpose” or an urban water supply by any stretch of the most imaginative among us, and certainly when Cochrane’s licence was issued many years ago, fracking was not a municipal purpose or use contemplated. If the report is accurate, then the town should apply for an amendment to its licence to allow for this new use of water, and given the moratorium on surface water licensing, why would such an amendment be approved by the province? … Our water allocation licence also requires that certain quantities of “return flows” be returned to the Bow River system, and Cochrane does eventually return much of the water it diverts through its sewage pipeline to Calgary. If water we divert under the conditions of our licence is trucked to hydraulic fracturing oil and gas well sites, and pumped deep into the ground to force oil and gas to rise to the surface, then the town is not meeting its return flow requirements. In fact, the town would then become a consumptive user of water of a considerable percentage of our licensed allocation, instead of a user that essentially returns most of what it diverts, albeit far downstream. This becomes an issue of risk to the health of the regional aquatic ecosystem. … Does the province care given all their fine talk of cumulative effects management and regional land use planning and management? If the town is allowing bulk water sales to the oil and gas industry for use in fracking operations, it appears that the town is not really treating water as a precious resource at all. Water is being treated as a sub-tractable input to oil and gas production because once used by this industry it is lost to the water cycle and not available to anyone else in the future, and this industry is being deemed more important than the collective interests of all other industry, business, people and the non-human world.

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