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Girl Guide camp water licence transfer will allow Southern Alberta town to grow

Cochrane was set to reach the maximum of it's water licence allocation within five years
The Bow River, just upstream from the Girl Guides' camp.

The Town of Cochrane can rest assured it will be allowed to draw enough water from the Bow River for the foreseeable future, after announcing Tuesday that it has achieved a critical milestone in its water strategy with the acquisition of a new water licence.

At a council meeting March 6, administration presented a report estimating that at current growth rates, current water license limits (to a population of 40,000) will be reached in four to five years. Applying the Town’s 4.4 per cent growth rate assumption to the current population of 33,453 the population would be dangerously close to 40,000 in four years.

And the province, as of 2006, put a stop to anyone in the Bow basin even applying for a new license.

Which put the ball clearly in the Town’s court to find someone with an existing license willing to enter an agreement to share.

There was no guarantee that the Town would be able to find a license holder nearby, or even if they did, be able to come to such an agreement. 

The Girl Guides stepped forward, much to the relief of the Town.

“We've got a great partner in this,” said Drew Hyndman, the Town’s executive director of development and infrastructure services, at the time.

The Town’s release this week called it a “significant step towards ensuring long-term water security for our growing community.”

The Town has a water license transfer application with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (AEPA).

Alberta’s existing water transfer system currently allows for the re-distribution (trading) of water licences between different water users, under certain conditions. The current system has several public policy protections: a public review of every water transfer, each transfer is considered for its hydrological and third-party impacts, and the province has the opportunity to hold back 10 per cent of the allocation for environmental instream purposes.

Working collaboratively with the Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas, Cochrane completed the successful transfer of the Girl Guides of Canada water licence from Camp Jubilee to the Town of Cochrane. 

"This acquisition is a huge step forward for Cochrane and reflects an innovative, win-win solution for our community, " said Mayor Genung.

“Not only does this ensure future water security for Cochrane, it also supports Girl Guide of Canada’s land—an investment in our own community – and carries significant financial benefits by avoiding the need to purchase this licence from the open market, resulting in significant cost savings.”

Over the last decade, Cochrane administration has been working with the Girl Guides of Canada to facilitate the transfer of their non-consumptive water licence to the Town of Cochrane in exchange for the Town providing servicing to Camp Jubilee.

This will enable Girl Guides of Canada to provide increased programming and servicing in Cochrane and supports the Town of Cochrane in acquiring the additional water licence needed to support growth.

As part of the 2024 budget deliberations, Council approved $550,000 to support design of the servicing, and an additional $7.35M for consideration in the 2025 budget deliberations to construct the servicing. 

Administration is continuing to work to acquire additional consumptive water licenses to serve the community for the foreseeable future.

And through the implementation of water connection fees during the development phase, introduced in September 2023, a sustainable funding model is established to acquire additional licenses without adding strain to taxpayers.

Prior to this acquisition, Cochrane’s water licence was designed to sustain a population of around 47,000 people. Through community water conservation efforts, tiered water rates, and the Water Loss Mitigation program, Cochrane only utilized 65 per cent of its existing water licence in 2023, showcasing the effectiveness of sustainable practices.

“The data reflects Cochrane's respect for our critical resources, demonstrated through responsible water stewardship and ongoing conservation efforts within our community,” said Hyndman. “Continuing these conservation efforts will maximize the capacity of our water licences."

Cochrane's 25-year water strategy will continue, with updates provided as they become available. Through sustained long-range planning and collaborative partnerships, efforts will continue to ensure long-term water security.

Hyndman added, “We’ve heard concerns from our residents about Cochrane’s ability to provide water to our growing community. This agreement ensures a critical component of community building is in place for the long term."

Camp Jubilee, owned by Girl Guides of Canada, is adjacent to the Bow River, east of the Highway 22 bridge. It includes five overnight buildings and six tenting sites. 

For more information on Cochrane’s 25-year water strategy and water conservation initiatives go to

Howard May

About the Author: Howard May

Howard was a journalist with the Calgary Herald and with the Abbotsford Times in BC, where he won a BC/Yukon Community Newspaper Association award for best outdoor writing.
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