Water Conservation, Shortage and Drought

Conserving water is an environmental initiative that can help extend the life of our waterways - the source of our safe and reliable water services. Water conservation and water stewardship are key priorities for our water utility, and you can help.

Current conditions 

The City of Medicine Hat is in regular communication with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) regarding the current river levels. As information on the watershed is shared, the City is prepared to respond if necessary.

Scale showing dry water conditions in Medicine Hat


Refer to the visual above to determine the current conditions and to see if the City has initiated a Water Conservation Phase. If a Plan phase is noted, refer to the information below on how the Plan phase may affect public water use.

March 5, 2024 Update:
As the Spring season approaches, please note that Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) still considers the water flow in the South Saskatchewan River to be lower than usual, indicating a water shortage advisory. The City will continue to remain in Phase 1 of the Water Shortage Management Plan with recommended water conservation measures in place.  

At this time, there is no immediate concern with the City's water supply from the South Saskatchewan River that could impact the Water Treatment Plant operations in treating and providing safe water to the community.

Yellow banner with transparent geometric designs
Phase 1: Voluntary Conservation

Implement water conservation measures to minimize non-essential water use. For example, using washing machines and dishwashers on full loads only.

Limit irrigation of lawn (except for newly seeded or sodded lawns) and vegetable gardens to 60 minutes per day  not more than three days per week corresponding with residential odd and even address numbers.

Refer to these tips to conserve. 

 Graphic showing EVEN numbered addresses  Graphic showing ODD numbered addresses

Preparing for a forecasted water shortage

The City intends to work with other Southern Alberta water license holders and EPA to coordinate water conservation measures. One way of doing this will be to try to implement plan phases in a coordinated effort so that each affected municipality has similar water conservation measures occurring at the same time. 

The City continues to monitor weather forecasts, the South Saskatchewan River levels and EPA information to ensure Medicine Hat is preparing for the worst drought conditions but continuing to hope for the best!

Water shortage management plan

The City of Medicine Hat has a 4 Phase Water Shortage Management Plan where, if enacted, the public will be asked to reduce their water use in an effort to help protect the integrity of the potable water system to safeguard and preserve public health and safety, especially regarding domestic water use, sanitation and fire protection. 

Read the water shortage management plan

While the City departments will enact various water conservation measures to reduce and limit water using operations, here is an overview of how this Plan will affect the public.

How does the Water Shortage Management Plan affect you?

Phase 1: Voluntary public water conservation measures 
  • Implement water conservation measures to minimize non-essential water use. For example, limit irrigation, use washing machines and dishwashers only on full loads, etc.
  • Limit watering your lawn (except for newly seeded or sodded lawns) and vegetable gardens to 60 minutes per day, not more than three days per week, corresponding with residential odd and even address numbers.
    • Even number addresses (addresses ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8) may use outdoor irrigation and sprinklers for 60 minutes per day on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
    • Odd number addresses (addresses ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9) may use outdoor irrigation and sprinklers for 60 minutes per day on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
  • Water only between the hours of:
    • 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.,
    • 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., or
    • 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. 
Phase 2: A combination of voluntary and mandatory public water conservation measures 

Mandatory:

Restricted use:
  • Limit watering your lawn (except for newly seeded or sodded lawns) and vegetable gardens to 30 minutes per day, not more than three days per week, corresponding with residential odd and even address numbers.
    • Even number addresses (addresses ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8) may use outdoor irrigation and sprinklers for 30 minutes per day on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
    • Odd number addresses (addresses ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9) may use outdoor irrigation and sprinklers for 30 minutes per day on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
  • Water only between the hours of:
    • 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.,
    • 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., or
    • 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. 
Prohibited use:

Do not wash outdoor surfaces, fill swimming pools/hot tubs, or turn on decorative outdoor water features.

Voluntary:

Implement water conservation measures to minimize non-essential water use inside the home or business. For example, using washing machines and dishwashers only on full loads, stop washing vehicles. 

 
Phase 3: A combination of voluntary and mandatory public water conservation measures with further limitations to water use 

Mandatory:

Restricted use:
  • Limit watering lawn and vegetable gardens to 30 minutes per day with a hand-held sprayer only, not more than two days per week, corresponding with residential odd and even address numbers.
    • Even number addresses (addresses ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8) may use handheld means to water outdoors for 30 minutes per day on Tuesday & Saturday.
    • Odd number addresses (addresses ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9) may use handheld means to water outdoors for 30 minutes per day on Wednesday & Sunday.
  • Water only between the hours of:
    • 4 a.m. and 7 a.m.,
    • 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., or
    • 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. 
Prohibited use:

Do not use decorative outdoor water features, wash outdoor surfaces, or fill swimming pools/hot tubs. Construction activities requiring water are prohibited.

Voluntary:

Implement additional water conservation measures on top of those noted in Phase 2 to minimize non-essential water use. For example, limit shower time, bath water level, and toilet flushing.

 
Phase 4: Water use prohibited for all non-essential services
All Phase 3 mandatory restrictions will remain in effect, plus water use is prohibited for all non-essential services. 

How the City plans to conserve water

Parks and recreation has water conservation measures that coordinate with each Water Shortage Management Plan phase. The measures include reducing the number of days per week certain parks and turf areas are watered as well as reduced operational hours at water parks. 

Other City departments, including Environmental Utilities, plan to develop and review operational water conservation measures while continuing to maintain regulatory compliance obligations. Measures will be implemented by all departments to minimize non-essential water use. 

Why conserve?

A river running through your community may cause residents to think that conserving water is not a necessary practice. However, rivers are not infinite. Hot, dry weather can create water shortage and/or drought conditions, where the river levels diminish significantly. This can greatly affect the raw water supply to the Water Treatment Plant and the treated water supply to our residents.

Water conservation and efficiency is not only good for the environment, it helps reduce the overall costs for water distribution and collection systems. Plus, it can save you, the consumer, on your monthly utility statement. 

Ways to conserve water

Make every drop count and conserve the water that you use all year 'round!

Outdoor

Design
  • Slope flowerbeds and place plants needing the most water in low areas.
  • Redesign the yard to add or increase the size of a patio or deck to reduce space that requires watering and add to the value of your property.
Minimize
Xeriscape part of your yard. Minimize turf and maximize creative landscaping by replacing portions of your lawn with tiered gardens, rocks, mulch and drought resistant shrubs or trees. Minimize evaporation by watering in the early morning or late evening hours when the temperature is cooler.
Leave it long
Set mower blades between 2 - 3 inches and leave the grass cuttings on the lawn to slow water evaporation and to fertilize the grass.
Mulch matters
A 3 - 6 inch layer of bark, wood chips or stones will reduce evaporation from the soil, inhibit weed growth and minimize soil erosion.
Grow with SureGrow
Enrich soil naturally, prevent erosion, conserve water and save money by using compost. SureGrow compost, made from yard waste materials collected locally, is available for purchase at the Waste Management Facility. Refer to www.medicinehat.ca/suregrow for more information.
Cover it up
If you own a pool or hot tub, be sure to cover it up when it is not in use. Not only is this an important safety tip, but it also reduces water loss due to evaporation.
Leak check
Frequently check for water leaks on hoses, faucets, irrigation lines, pools and ponds to avoid high utility bills and possible property damage.
Time it
Install an automatic timer on sprinkler systems to avoid leaving them running all day. Turn sprinkler timers off during periods of rainfall and let Mother Nature do the job for you.
Save it
Consider using a rain barrel to harvest rainwater from downspouts and use this water for your lawn and garden.
Sweep it
Clean your driveway and sidewalks with a broom instead of the hose.

Indoor

In the kitchen
  • Clean fruits and veggies in a partially filled sink or container rather than running the tap.
  • Keep a container of drinking water in the fridge to avoid running your tap when you want a cold drink.
  • Adjust the flow rate from your sink tap to only what is required, being sure to turn it off tightly so that it doesn’t drip.
  • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you clean off the stuck on food.
In the bathroom
  • Only flush the toilet when necessary and never use it as a wastebasket.
  • Leaky toilets can waste up to 400 litres of water per day. Check for and repair leaks to minimize water loss and high utility bills.
  • Turn the tap off when brushing your teeth, shaving and washing your face. Use short bursts of water instead.
Around the house
  • If your washing machine does not automatically adjust the water levels based on load size; only operate it when you have a full load.
  • Insulate your hot water pipes so that the water heats up faster, minimizing the amount of time you have to run the faucet to get hot water.
  • Consider upgrading appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers, to energy efficient models.

Phase 1: Water conservation frequently asked questions

Is water conservation mandatory?

For the public, no. During phase 1, the public is asked to voluntarily reduce water use by following the guidelines provided to limit outdoor watering.

Irrigation of lawn and vegetable gardens is requested to be limited to 60 minutes per day not more than 3 days per week corresponding with residential odd and even address numbers as follows:

  • Even number addresses (ending in 0,2,4,6,8) may use outdoor irrigation and sprinklers on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
  • Odd number addresses (ending in 1,3,5,7,9) may use outdoor irrigation and sprinklers on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

City departments plan to develop and review operational water conservation measures while continuing to maintain regulatory compliance obligations. Measures will be implemented by all departments to minimize non-essential water use. 

Why are water conservation measures required?

Low Flow/Water Shortage Advisories have been issued by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) for the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) both upstream and downstream of Medicine Hat as well as in other river basins upstream of Medicine Hat.

Taking this information into account as well as current South Saskatchewan River flow rates through Medicine Hat and forecasted hot, dry weather for the upcoming summer through to the fall; the City has determined that it is important to remain proactive in reducing water use in an effort to preserve our precious water source.

What is the City doing to reduce water use?
  • City departments will lead by example by implementing measures to minimize non-essential water use.
  • Environmental Utilities will develop and/or review operational water conservation measures while maintaining regulatory compliance obligations. 
  • Parks and Recreation will implement Phase 1 Water Conservation Measures to reduce water use by 25%.
Do I have to restrict the amount of water I use inside my home/business?
In Phase 1, water conservation measures for the public are voluntary. The public is encouraged to make every drop count by implementing water conservation measures both inside and outside year round. Refer to medicinehat.ca/waterconservation for tips to conserve water both inside and outside your home or business. 
Can I put the sprinkler on for my kids to run through?
This type of water use is considered non-essential, so we recommend you try to incorporate this fun use of water into your routine lawn water time(s). In Phase 1, it is recommended that watering be limited to 60 minutes per say, not more than 3 days per week. 
Can I use water to fill my wading pool, swimming pool, hot tub, or garden pond?
Since Phase 1 water conservation measures are voluntary for the public this type of water use is not prohibited but is considered non-essential. The public is encouraged to limit non-essential water use where they can. 
What should I do if I’m not home during the designated watering times?
Consider installing a timer or ask a friend or neighbour to turn on your sprinkler during the designated times.
I just planted new sod/seeded my lawn; can I still water it?
Yes. You can continue to water newly seeded/sodded lawns through Phases 1 and 2 of the Water Shortage Management Plan. Outdoor watering becomes restricted to hand-held water means in Phase 3.
How will I keep my lawn alive?
  • Continue to water your lawn on the designated days and within the times provided for your address.
  • Watering early in the morning or later in the evening reduces chance for evaporation and burning so that your lawn can soak up as much water as possible.
  • Leave your lawn long, about 2-3 inches should do, and leave the grass cuttings on the lawn to slow water evaporation.
How will I know if the City moves to another phase of the Water Shortage Management Plan and restrictions become mandatory?
The City will communicate any change required through a formal news release, which will also be posted on the City website, and social media platforms.


If you have additional questions or concerns regarding this information, please contact Environmental Utilities at 403-529-8176.

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