Hauling water 10 to 12 miles may soon become a thing of the past for up to 150 households and farms in the rural municipalities of Brenda and Arthur.
Funding from the provincial and federal government to the tune of $1.6 million was announced recently which could extend a proposed six-inch water pipeline from the Melita water treatment plant to up to 150 users in Medora and Napinka.
The money is part of $116 million recently allocated for local infrastructure projects under the Canada-Manitoba Building Canada Fund economic stimulus package.
“Phase 1 of the project is going to go from Melita to Medora. Anyone who is between there who wants to hook up, and is close enough, we’re going to hook up,” said Duncan Stewart, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Brenda.
“We’re going to look into Napinka. If there’s enough interest, we’ll go up there.”
Water for the project would be sourced from the 800-square-mi le Oak Lake aqui fer in the southwest corner of the province.
Currently, residents in the areas to be linked to the pipeline have been drawing from private or municipal wells, but officials say the water quality is poor. Further east, groundwater is in many places hit or miss or non-existent, and hauling water for households and livestock is a daily chore. Medora has been under a boil water advisory for eight years. A previous attempt to set up a pipeline in 2003 failed due to lack of money and public interest.
“There was a lot of fellows who ran out of water for their cattle this winter. We’ve had two really dry years now,” said Stewart.
“There was a lot of fellows who ran out of water for their cattle this winter. We’ve had two really dry years now.”
– DUNCAN STEWART, REEVE OF BRENDA
“This spring, the dugouts are all full, but we’d like to have it fixed up so that doesn’t happen again.”
The cost of connecting each farm or household to the pipeline could be as high as $20,000 each, but the final amount would depend on how many residents want to hook up.
“We know that we have to raise $800,000 in hook-up fees; that’s the local share of the money for the pipeline,” he said.
Work on trenching the pipe 22 kilometres to Medora could begin as early as this summer. Next year, the pipe could be extended as far east as the R. M. of Winchester and Lake Metigoshe.
“That’s if everything goes right. That last leg would be pretty expensive,” said Stewart.
Some opposition from current users of the Oak Lake aquifer is to be expected, he said.
“They just don’t accept that the people from Water Stewardship know what they are saying,” he said. “There’s no worry of pumping it dry, unless you were drawing an enormous amount.”
Glen Campbell, manager of the West Souris River Conservation District, who serves as a technical adviser to the Oak Lake Aqui fer Management Advisory Board, said that the nature of the aquifer – which rests on a 100-foot slope to the east – means that water constantly flows through to the Souris River whether it is tapped by local users or not.
Users situated near the well on the edge of the aquifer that feeds Melita have in the past expressed concerns that their well water levels might be affected by extra water consumption, he said. But overall, most people are willing to share the resource within reasonable limits and provided that it isn’t wasted.
“I don’t want to say that it would never go dry, because that would be foolish,” said Campbell. “But I think the aquifer as a whole is sustainable, and has lots of water for what they require for the extension of that pipeline.”
The Oak Lake Aquifer Management Plan published in 2000 estimated that the underground reservoir at an average depth of 7.5 feet beneath the area’s light, sandy soil contains three million acre feet of water. It is recharged annually at a rate of 15,000 acre feet.
The annual allocation limit in 2000 was 7,500 acre feet, of which currently 2,444 acre feet were already being used. One acre foot amounts to roughly 270,000 imperial gallons.
The document stated that 2,400 urban and 1,400 rural residents depend on the aquifer for their water needs. [email protected]