The Council of Canadians Edmonton Chapter presented a panel and public discussion for World Water Day on Tuesday March 22, 2022. Those who attended shared their your own stories about why they love our water. They learned from the passionate local activists and professionals listed below about current threats to Alberta waters and about action we should be taking to ensure a pure and sustained flows in 3 central and northern Alberta watersheds.
With our nearby glaciers, generally adequate precipitation levels, forest cover and rich soils maintaining water regimes, it could be argued that in Alberta, we have a reliable and sustainable supply of clean and fresh water.
But Alberta industry uses enormous amounts of fresh water, while generating extensive pollution and other environmental and health impacts. At the same time, Alberta citizens may inherit significant environmental and health risks, while government prevention and needed legal protection from these impacts remains inadequate.
West of Edmonton, inadequately restored coal mines continue to leach toxins into the North Saskatchewan River watershed – the main source of our drinking water. Further north, the Sturgeon River watershed has long been impacted by aggregate (sand and gravel) mining. Perhaps most striking is the persisting use of the Athabasca River watershed for oil and gas, pulp mill, coal mining, agricultural and other effluents. Everywhere, accelerating climate change intensifies these industrial impacts, with the rate of transpiration now exceeding the rate of precipitation.
Are we taking clean and reliable freshwater for granted in Alberta? Should we have immediate serious concerns about it? Is there action that citizens can take now to preserve and restore this essential mineral?
* Chris Smith – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Northern Alberta
Topics – Alberta’s Water – Why are healthy rivers important? Threats to water. Water Protection. What you can do! Chris will focus on the North Saskatchewan watershed.
Bio – Chris Smith was born and raised in Atlantic Canada, channeling his passion for nature and love of the outdoors into a career that has straddled work with industry, academia, government and NGOs in three different countries and four Canadian provinces. Chris has worked with the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society as a Conservation Analyst since 2018, helping lead the Northern Alberta Chapter’s protected areas, public lands, and coal campaigns, with a particular focus on the North Saskatchewan River watershed.
* Ian Skinner and Mike Northcott – Onoway River Valley Conservation Association
Topics -. Impacts of aggregate strip mining to surface and groundwater natural functions within the Sturgeon River Watershed.
Bios – Mike has been involved with coal strip mines around Wabamun Lake for over half a century. He has worked on managing the cumulative effects of aggregate projects on water resources in Lac Ste Anne County (2011-2015) through Stantec Engineering. Ian is a graduate of the Environmental Resource Management (ERM) program at the U of A and a past member of the ERM Steering Committee.
* Paul Belanger – Keepers of the Water
Topics – The Athabasca River Watershed – Historical value to indigenous peoples, ecosystems and wildlife such as threatened woodland caribou. Impacts from pulp mills, coal mines, water treatment, agriculture, climate change, water temperatures, tars and the lack of government and industrial monitoring.
Bio – Paul’s work as a river activist since 1988 includes a science-based Athabasca River water monitoring program with the Keepers of the Athabasca and indigenous communities. He has also worked with Dr. David Suzuki on the poisoning of the Wapiti River near Grande Prairie and on oilfield flaring pollution. Paul has studied biology, bio-chemistry, and ethnobotany. He walks his talk, designing, building and living in solar straw bale homes for 23 years.
* Jacqueline Noga – U of A School of Public Health, Water and Resource Recovery Lab
Topics – Re-imagining the way we work with water to better reflect its value. Recovering resources from ‘waste’ water.
Bio – U of Alberta, M.Sc. Social Research Coordinator, School of Public Health, Edmonton Clinical Health Academy.Jacqueline has a Master of Science in Environmental Health from the School of Public Health. She worked in the Water and Resource Recovery Lab for three years, and will be presenting on findings from that work.