Challenges and Potential Adaptation Strategies of Rural Water Co-ops: An Alberta Case Study

Dr. Lorraine Ann Nicol, Dr. Christopher John Nicol

Abstract


With roots going back decades, rural co-operative water systems play an important role in rural water management on the Prairies. But some of these co-operatives, especially those adjacent to large and growing urban centres, are facing significant challenges. This study focuses on water co-operatives within Rocky View County, a rural municipality adjacent to the city of Calgary. The County is experiencing significant water demand pressures from regional population growth. However, under Alberta’s water licensing allocation system, increased demand in the Bow River Basin—where the County is situated—cannot be met by acquiring additional water licenses. This study presents a preliminary exploration into the views of three groups: water managers—co-operatives as well as private systems, housing developers, and Rocky View County councillors. The views gathered relate to the extent of the water challenges, the current and future ability to manage them, potential consequences, and possible solutions. Key findings are water managers’ expressed lack of confidence in adapting to water challenges and a lack of common understanding amongst the three groups as to the seriousness and consequence of those challenges. In meeting the challenges, a solution which presents the greatest support is the development of a regional umbrella water management organization.


Keywords: water, co-operatives, rural, water management, Alberta

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.

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