The Milk River provides the major source of water for domestic, municipal, agricultural, recreational, and industrial requirements in the southernmost portion of Alberta. Yet its catchment has an arid climate and an average annual precipitation of only about 300 mm (12”). As a result, on-going socio-economic activity in the watershed is periodically threatened and future growth and development in the region is limited. The most recent drought occurred in 2002 and periods of very low river flows also occurred in 2006 and 2007. Since 1985 there has been a moratorium on new water licenses for irrigation and industrial use in the watershed.
The long-standing water constraint in the watershed has been discussed and studied for many years. Studies of various onstream
storage alternatives (AE/PFRA, 1978-1985) were followed by a more recent study of a preferred on-stream alternative as well as six off-stream storage alternatives (KCBL, et. al., 2003). Water supplies remain a major concern (MRWCC, 2007) and no real progress has been made to alleviate the water shortage.
In 2008, the MRWCC commissioned two studies to:
- determine if supplemental water could be supplied from the Milk River Ridge Reservoir;
- evaluate these potential new supply options from an engineering, environmental, and economic perspective; and
- compare the socio-economic feasibility of the new supply options to the socio-economic feasibility of the nine options evaluated in 2003.