KANANASKIS – Fifty million litres of water from Kananaskis Country could soon be hauled away by truck annually to a water bottling facility in Calgary.
According to a public notice, Fortress Mountain Holdings Ltd. recently filed an application to amend its provincial water licence to allow nine or more trucks per day to haul a maximum of 50,000 cubic metres of water a year from its licenced allotment of 98,679 cubic metres.
The water will be taken from a tributary of Galatea Creek, which flows into the Kananaskis River before entering the Bow River. In order to amend its licence to remove the water, the ski resort had to make an application under Alberta's Water Act, which has a 30-day public notice period. Alberta Environment and Parks confirmed the application is to truck the water to a bottling facility in Calgary.
Chris Chevalier, president of the company, downplayed environmental concerns about the commercial operation and added the company has yet to finalize a deal to sell the water.
“We have two water licences, one for snowmaking and one for potable water, and what we’re trying to do is alter our licence to allow for the sale of a portion of our potable water licence to an end-user and that is yet to be determined,” said Chevalier.
“Nothing is inked yet as far as where the water is going.”
Chevalier said his company is against the use of single-use plastics and is hoping to sell the water to a company that will use it in aluminum cans or glass bottles, such as a beer company.
The Alberta Wilderness Association said it was strongly opposed to the application describing it as a “misuse” of the ski resort’s water licence.
“It’s a really poor use of Fortress Ski Resort’s water licence, it’s a misuse,” said Carolyn Campbell, a conservation specialist with Alberta Wilderness Association.
“They should withdraw it, or the provincial government should certainly not allow it.”
She said the ski resort should have the highest water conservation practices because it is surrounded by Spray Valley Provincial Park and located at the headwaters of the Kananaskis River.
She also questioned the sustainability of trucking water to Calgary.
“This is 50 million litres of water and thousands of water truck round trips a year taken from a mountain stream that is flowing into a Kananaskis provincial park to take it to Calgary where it was already headed,” said Campbell.
She said her organization intends to file a written statement of concern to Alberta Environment and Parks.
“We hope once more people learn about this, they’ll see that this is not a sustainable way to use their privileged position and that they’ll rethink it,” said Campbell.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society also criticized the ski resort's plans.
“We are so fortunate to live in one of the places in the world where we have some of the cleanest drinking water, so there’s no reason that we should be drinking bottled water here,” said Anne-Marie Syslak, executive director for the southern Alberta chapter of CPAWS.
Chevalier said studies from the University of Calgary and the University of Saskatchewan have shown that extracting 50 million litres of water per year will have a negligible impact on the volume of water that flows into the Kananaskis River and onwards to the Bow River.
“It’s infinitesimally small,” said Chevalier, adding the commercial operation will help the company generate revenue and create jobs.
Anyone who is directly affected by the application has until Aug. 9 to submit a written statement of concern to Alberta Environment and Parks by emailing email@example.com or by mail.
Those who would like additional information can also contact Fortress Mountain directly by emailing Thomas Heath at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org.