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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - April 2, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta TuMdcy, Apr! LETHBRIDQE HEBALD-3 CARDSTON Water supplies available to agriculture, recreation and urban populations are a closely checked commodity and government controls on their use could be enforced if snow measurements during the winter months indicate possible shortages. The provincial department of the environment in Lethbridge has a three-man crew which travels throughout the mountain and foothill regions of Southern Alberta on a monthly basis each winter to measure the snow pack which drains each spring into river systems throughout the region. By measuring the depth of snow pack throughout a wide area in each major region, the crew can determine the amount of actual water which will likely run off each spring. Spring runoff provides the major flow for dams, reservoirs and irrigation systems for Alberta. Alberta runoff is also a vital source for both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Glen Steed of Lethbridge, chief hydrologist for the depratment of the environment, says the flow forecasting work could have a direct bearing on water use in Southern Alberta. He said the department has to know how much water is available in order to properly assess the interprovincial water agreement. "A certain amount of water has to be directed through to Saskatchewan and Manitoba each year. By RIC SWIHART Herald Staff Writer "And we have to know how much is available in order to assess our own requirements. If the shortage is severe enough, irrigators might have to curtail application to fields." A recent routine survey of the Lee Creek .watershed 20 miles southwest of Cardston, began eraly in the morning for technicians Alan Pack and Dave Stretch. Then a trip through ranch roads almost to the base of Chief Mountain in Montana, including about two miles aboard snow mobiles. The Lee Creek watershed encompasses about 117 square miles of foothill and mountain region which drains into the Oldman River system. This system includes the Oldman River, Castle, Crowsnest, St. Mary, Waterton and Belly rivers The watershed area starts at the base of Chief Mountain and empties into the St. Mary River near Standoff. Mr. Pack says he tries to get back to each measurement location about the same time each month to get a more accurate comparison. The tools of the trade, except a four- wheel-drive truck and the snowmobiles, are simple. A three-foot aluminum pipe with one cerated end for digging into the snow pack is calibrated to instantly determine the actual number of inches of water. A scale equipped with a hook to hold the aluminum pipe is used to compute the density of the snow. Mr. Pack says all measurements must be made in a cleared area in the forest. Both evergreen and poplar wooded areas are checked to arrive at an overall average estimation of the available water. The three men are responsible for all regions south of Calgary. Mr. Steed said federal authorities maintain survey crews for work higher up in the mountain region. A problem in the Lee Creek- watershed is being created by surveying oil and gas companies, said Mr. Steed. These firms are chopping trails throughout a forest reserve which stores much of the snow pack the Lee Creek watershed. These trails, if hot properly managed, could cause a rapid runoff this spring and rob the downstream area of a longer period of high water. It couM contribute to flooding also. Also, said Mr. Steed, when the water runs off too fast, the quality is adversely affected. There tends to be more sediment and a higher concentration of chemicals. Because of the activity of the firms in the Lee Creek watershed, Mr. Steed has been trying to get some protest from the people in Cardston. He feels further trail clearing action in the area could endanger the town's water supply. 'Trail clearing could endanger Cardston water supply9 ;