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Photo of a Girl Guide with cookies and the Bow River running through Cochrane, Alberta

Beyond Cookies: How the Girl Guides are Solving Cochrane’s Water Crisis

A transformative agreement between Cochrane and Girl Guides at Camp Jubilee is tackling water scarcity head-on

Everyone loves Girl Guide cookies.

But the Girl Guides are so much more than cookie sellers!

One of the Girl Guides of Canada’s Guiding Law states, “I will use my resources wisely and protect our common environment.”

The Girl Guides of Camp Jubilee, a peaceful retreat on the Bow River in Cochrane, are doing just that with a deal that helps mitigate Cochrane’s long-standing water issues.

How can the Girl Guides help solve Cochrane’s growing water woes?

Simple, with a trade that benefits both the town and the Guides.

And we’re not talking cookies here.

Water License Problems

Camp Jubilee held a water license dating back to 1977, allowing them to use a lagoon and a canoeing channel on their property.

“We call them sleeper rights, or dozer rights,” Davin MacIntosh, founder of Water Transfer Alberta, told the CBC.

Back then, securing a water license in Alberta was straightforward – the Guides applied, stated their water use intentions, and got the green light for 3,600 acre-feet per year.

Fast-forward to today: Alberta’s population has boomed, environmental rules have tightened, and water scarcity is a critical issue, especially for many growing towns in the south.

Like many Calgary suburbs, Cochrane faced a water crunch due to rapid growth. That’s when they saw potential in Camp Jubilee’s water license.

Rather than shelling out $50-60 million for new water rights, Cochrane proposed a trade with the Girl Guides.

The Town would take over their’ non-consumptive water license and merge it with their own, reducing costs to a more manageable $20-30 million.

“We’ve heard concerns from our residents about Cochrane’s ability to provide water to our growing community. This agreement ensures a critical component of community building is in place for the long term,” said Drew Hyndman, the Town’s Executive Director of Development and Infrastructure Services.

According to a spokesperson with the Town of Cochrane, Cochrane will provide Camp Jubilee with water services and more than $7 million for construction projects rather than a direct payment.

Camp Jubilee in Cochrane
Camp Jubilee in Cochrane | Girl Guides of Canada

A Win-Win

The Girl Guides are satisfied with this plan, saying it aligns with their values.

“A partnership like this is in keeping with the Guiding Law, which challenges us to use our resources wisely, among other principles,” they said in a statement.

A heck of a deal for both parties, but especially for Cochranites.

Given Calgary’s recent major water main break and recurrent drought conditions, our water supply and infrastructure are top-of-mind.

This deal to draw water from the Bow River solves Cochrane’s worries, but as MacIntosh noted, we still need to monitor the impacts of “waking up” old sleeper licenses.

“You may lead to more efficiency of use, but you’ll also end up with more intensity of use … you end up using more water in the whole system.”

The beautiful Bow River flowing through Cochrane
The beautiful Bow River flowing through Cochrane |

Water Trading

Alberta’s existing water transfer system allows users to trade water licenses

Due to water scarcity, no new applications for water licenses for the entire South Saskatchewan basin, including the Bow, Red Deer, and Old Man rivers, are being accepted.

Combining a consumptive and non-consumptive licence, as Cochrane and the Girl Guides have done, was a first.

“The trail has been kind of blazed, others follow, and I’m sure Alberta Environment didn’t allow us to pursue this without realizing that this would be setting some precedent in the province,” Mayor Jeff Genung told Cochrane Now.

“I think this will be something that other communities are going to look to emulate.”

With communities like Okotoks and Peace River deciding how to expand their water supplies for an expanding population, this approach could help forge a path forward from a bureaucratic standpoint.

Water sources are limited, however, and as the Girl Guides pointed out, the importance of using our resources wisely is only getting more complicated.

Returning to the simple tenet of using resources wisely and protecting the environment is the guiding principle for the Girl Guides and all Albertans.

Now pass them cookies!

The Girl Guides at the Cochrane 2022 Pride Parade | Girl Gides of Canada
The Girl Guides at the Cochrane 2022 Pride Parade | Girl Gides of Canada

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