Friday, 30 June 2017 08:00

More sign on to southern Alberta Water Charter

Written by  Demi Knight
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New partners are ready to pledge their help to protect watersheds by signing the 2017 Water Charter. New partners are ready to pledge their help to protect watersheds by signing the 2017 Water Charter. Photo by Demi Knight

Members of the Oldman Watershed Council (OWC), volunteers and participating organizations and communities gathered June 15 to sign the 2017 Southern Alberta Water Charter.


At the end of the annual general meeting, over an hour was set aside to hear from the new signatories of the 2017 Water Charter, which is brought to light this year in hopes of protecting drinking water throughout the years to come.
With communities and organizations from across southern Alberta coming together during the meeting to represent why they vow to become a part of this year’s charter, audience members looked on with a renewed sense of hope.
 Anna Garleff, communications specialist with the Oldman Watershed Council, said this charter and the new signatories this year are needed to help a worthy cause.
“We have a sense of urgency. We need to give confidence through our actions and our coming together for others to act,” she said. “The change starts here, with ministers, mayors, students and community members to help protect our drinking water, because after all we are dependant on water.”
The new members of the Charter each took turns at the podium to represent why they believed in Garleff’s words, that people must protect drinking water, and how exactly they plan to help.
Overall, six new communities, groups or individuals vowed to sign the charter and pledge a helping hand during the annual meeting.
The first representative of the new members, Chris Gallagher from the Taber Irrigation District, says there have been several plans set into motion to further the protection of water within southern Alberta.
“We think all sectors need to understand how their behaviours impact water quality.”
He described the Taber Irrigation Districts efforts with their “drain water characterization and synoptic survey” as well as a new lateral canal naturalized drainage retention project within Taber.
“We’re a major user of water in Southern Alberta. We at Taber Irrigation District have realized that we are not separate from the watershed. In fact we are influenced and impacted by the watershed and we must advocate for them by having this partnership.”
Another group that joined the Charter this year is Chinook Food Connect. Rhonda Reach, vice-chair of the group was in attendance at the meeting to officially sign the Charter and pledge their partnership with the OWC, all whilst voicing their plan to help support map interactive online watershed resources.
Carla Preachuk, from the M.D of Willow Creek, was the third person to take to the podium to announce their partnership with the OWC, as well as speak about their work.
“We’re proud to be signing the Charter, and help continue the province’s efforts to make a better watershed. We want to help Oldman Watershed by assisting in their battle to rid shorelines and areas of invasive plants,” said Preachuk.
As the afternoon wore on and participants of the annual meeting had the chance to hear more about the continued efforts the public and members make, more members of the new charter were invited up to share their stories.
William Singer, an individual who lives east of Waterton by the Belly River, was an inspiring member of the public who signed the Charter this year with honourable intentions to move the cultivation line of his property away from the river.
“There’s so many sprays, pesticides that can easily flow into the waterbody because of how close our land is to the river. So we’re planning on moving back our cultivation line and essentially giving up a quarter of our field that gets cultivated to cut back on waste that enters the water,” said  Singer.
However, Singer said that isn’t his only plan to aid this year’s Charter.
“We’re also going to be putting indigenous plant species back along the edge that belong there from years ago to help the ecosystems. We hope that others can follow suit ... because we need our water, it’s that simple.”
The St. Mary’s River Irrigation District was also on the list to sign the Charter, and they too had similar ideas of pulling land back from the edges of water and fencing off areas where livestock are able to roam free.
The final members to sign the Charter this year during the annual meeting were the Timber Ridge Ranch and Southern Alberta Land Trust Society.
The Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips, who was also in attendance at the meeting, said it’s encouraging to see such a big range of people ready to help with the watersheds that the province so desperately needs.
“In southern Alberta we focus as watershed councils on tangible actions we can take,” she added. “It’s fantastic to see this enthusiasm and turnout. We want to make sure that funding and grants are available to these organizations to continue their work so they can flourish.”

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