For a touch of black humour one needs look no further than the infamous Alberta city of Okotoks. Followers of PIC’s website may recall that a year ago the City lifted its, admired by many, 30,000 resident population cap — a decision that had held firm in the face of pressures from developers for the previous 14 years.

Now, fast forward 12 months and, suddenly, Okotoks has discovered it is running out of water, this in the face of anticipated population growth, obviously facilitated by the lifting of the the cap. The City has also realized it can’t afford any of the options on the table to increase water supply.

A sad tale, and yet it’s hard not to shake one’s head and smile given what might have been had the cap remained…

Apparently Okotoks has enough water for 30,000 people. And its population currently sits at 26,000 plus. But as numbers grow, an ever-increasing water shortage will somehow have to be met. So far, Okotoks has looked at two options to increase the supply. Both involve pipelines. Both are prohibitively expensive.

“The treated water from the City of Calgary was $122 million and the raw water pipeline was $120 million, but we still have more costs to be evaluated,” says Mayor Bill Robertson. Robertson says Okotoks can’t foot the bill on its own, adding that the town will need to convince a cash-strapped Alberta government to help.

This year the province drastically cut funding from $170 million to $75 million for a municipal water program designed to help towns such as Okotoks to pay for their water supplies. Robertson hopes to meet with provincial officials soon to talk through options and how these might be paid for.

Had the cap not been lifted…