Friday, 01 March 2013 09:05

Residents share their Southeast Alberta water concerns

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Officials hosting the Alberta government’s water conversation in Medicine Hat last week were pleased with the turnout at the useful information shared.


The Medicine Hat meeting, co-hosted by the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance (SEAWA), took place the evening of Feb. 19 with 60 people in attendance.
“I was very pleased with the attendance,” says Bob Phillips, executive director of SEAWA. “There was some very good conversations and some good ideas about (water management) in the region.”
The watershed discussion included individuals representing a diversity of perspectives about water use, management and conservation. Facilitated group discussions took place with sharing feedback and ideas about healthy lakes; hydraulic fracturing and water; drinking water and wastewater and water management.
“There was quite a bit of conversation about water infrastructure and how departments could co-operate more,” says Phillips about the Medicine Hat conversation.
The information gathered will not only help the provincial government in creating its own water management plans moving forward, but will be beneficial to SEAWA as it continues with its Integrated Watershed Management Plan.
Provincial government officials with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development are sharing the feedback received at the water conversations on an online blog (http://aesrd.wordpress.com/).
According to that website, under each of the four topics some of the following points were raised. The following information is taken directly off that blog.
Healthy lakes and reservoirs
• Must consider the needs of each lake individually, but there is support for provincial framework of some sort;
• Local organizations don’t have the capacity/reserves to take this on right now — need to build this capacity;
• Transparent baseline monitoring is also needed;
• Stressed the need to consider the entire watershed when studying lakes;
• Public education about ecosystems was needed;
• Need to plan better for the long-term.
Drinking water and wastewater
Some suggested the current system was working fine, so why try to fix it by adding more oversight. Other feedback included:
• One size doesn’t fit all — even with a regional approach;
• Flexibility in management is key;
• Education about water conservation is needed;
• Water is valuable, but most people don’t recognize this (or the cost of infrastructure to treat water, etc.)
The use of grey water was also something that came up frequently, and some suggested infrastructure costs necessary to keep up with changing provincial standards was prohibitive.
Hydraulic Fracturing and Water
• Development and the environment must be properly balanced when it comes to hydraulic fracturing.
• More transparency from industry and government would take away some of the fears.
• Better education about the fracking process is needed.
• Encourage industry to embrace new and better technologies to improve practices.
• More and better baseline environmental data was necessary in areas of development, because once an aquifer is destroyed it is gone forever.
Water Management
Some of the common themes that came up under this category included the need for a regional focus and an emphasis on co-operation, but not everyone agreed with the regional approach.
• Some felt there wasn’t a scarcity problem — rather it was a management challenge.
• Need to anticipate problems before they occur and plan ahead better.
• Baseline data must be better known and reported.
• More information on groundwater was needed.
A common theme throughout all the conversation topics was the need for education around conserving water.
Next up for SEAWA officials is the annual general meeting set for Tuesday, March 19 from 9 a.m. to noon at Desert Blume Golf Club near Medicine Hat.
The morning will include the presentation of the annual report and financial statements as well as elections for a number of directors’ seats that need to be filled.
“We’re always looking for more people, especially from the rural area,” says Phillips.
Those in attendance will also hear from two guest speakers — Candace Savage, the author of Prairie: A Natural History, and A Geography of Blood and Ron McMullin, executive director with the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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