By Anna Smith
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
For the past six years, Garry Lentz, the Chairman of the Cypress Rural Water Co-op, has been trying for the past to acquire the funding for city water for rural residents between Dunmore and Irvine.
“A number of years ago here, there were numerous rural water co-ops that got established within Cypress County. I would say there’s, there’s about a dozen of them that are operating right now within Cypress County,” said Lentz. “We in this area that I am representing, we’re south and east of Dunmore, all the way to Irvine, and we’re also east of Veinerville all the way to Irvine. It’s quite a large area that we are covering. Now, it’s been probably five or six years that we saw the opportunity when Cypress County ran a municipal water line from Dunmore to Irvine that we saw the opportunity to be able to create a water Co-op and to get water from that.”
However, due to unfortunate timing, the co-op became incorporated just in time for federal and provincial funding for water projects such as the co-op dried up.
“Other co-ops, there was a large one just west of Medicine Hat that that managed to get in under the wire, they got at least 1/3 federal government funding and at least 1/3 provincial government funding, and then they were able to raise the the remaining funds that they needed internally with memberships and some other smaller grants, but we just had unlucky timing,” said Lentz.
Despite this, however, Lentz and the rest of the co-op members living in this large coverage area have yet to give up on securing water.
“Over the years I’ve been in a conversation with some of our members of parliament and members and MLAs and people that are involved in those departments that could provide funding,” said Lentz. “Now, the information that was given is that this is ongoing for the last few years, that all water project funding grant money from the federal and provincial government goes directly to the counties now. They’re not looking at helping any rural water co-ops, they believe it’s up to the individual counties and rural municipalities to provide that service. There is a huge amount of water project grant money that is available for the counties however, Cypress County has chosen to spend almost every cent of it into the hamlets and have ignored the rural residents with regards to providing water.”
Many of the residents have wells, or choose to haul water in, but Lentz believes this is a far from perfect solution.
“We’re not asking for a lot of water. We have a lot of residents out here in this area that you know may have wells, or may have some kind of a water source on their property. But it’s often not the best quality of drinking water,” said Lentz. “We have a very high pH in our water in this whole area. And so by bringing a small amount of city water out to the country, it would greatly improve the situation. A lot of us are actually hauling water from Dunmore, or from Irvine. To their residences, some people pave for a contractor to deliver water to them. A lot of people have made shift systems, trailers with tanks on and that sort of thing for hauling water. When I see some of them on the road, I just shudder because I really doubt they’re roadworthy. But people are trying to get by with what they have.”
The co-op has a proposed trickle system, with small cisterns or storage tanks on individual properties that provides a small trickle of water 24 hours a day.
“It wouldn’t be like you just turn the tap on and there’s as much water as you want, it would be just a limited trickle system, but it would be adequate to provide for the average household,” said Lentz.