Water Conversation: Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat

Yesterday we kicked off the first day of the Water Conversation in Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat. We’re visiting 20 communities over the next month to discuss four priority topics: healthy lakes, water management, drinking and wastewater systems, and water use in hydraulic fracturing

The water conversation is part of a long-term approach to water issues in Alberta. The input collected will be extremely important to formulating new directions for water issues and will matter to future generations.

If you’re unable to attend a session in person, we encourage you to read the conversation guide and complete the online workbook. We also encourage you to keep visiting our blog for a daily summary of the key themes that came out of the community conversations. The feedback gathered through the water conversation will be compiled and we expect to report back to Albertans later this summer.

Here’s a summary of the conversation

Grande Prairie

In attendance: 48

Photo of Minister Diana McQueen

Minister McQueen opens the Water Conversation in Grande Prairie

Minister Diana McQueen along with her colleagues Wayne Drysdale, Minister of Infrastructure, Everett McDonald, MLA for Grande Prairie-Smoky, and Hector Goudreau, MLA for Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, launched the northern edition of the water conversation.

Minister McQueen expressed her gratitude for all those who took the time to attend and emphasized her eagerness to hear what Albertans had to say about Alberta’s most vital resource.

Healthy lakes

  • Albertans love our province’s lakes – they are special, significant and important
  • Planning and management should include wetland and riparian areas
  • Should encourage planning as a region and province
  • Need better and more current data
  • Alberta should take action to acquire more data and research
  • Need a provincial framework
  • Individuals need to take action and be involved in the dialogue

Drinking water and wastewater

  • Calls for consistency in regulation, policy
  • Need to recognize autonomy of regions and municipalities
  • Don’t want anything forced
  • Long-term planning is essential
  • Equitable access for everyone a key principle
  • Healthy watersheds imperative
  • Strongly expressed view that all Albertans are entitled to safe, clean drinking water
  • Need to incentivize regional systems
  • More leadership and emphasis needed for issues in the north
  • More transparent data needed
Photo_WC_GrandePrairie3

Discussing water management

Water management

  • Need better management priorities for allocation and uses
  • recognize historical licences but be flexible for new users and accommodate regional flavour
  • Suggest innovative partnerships – with government, municipalities, industry
  • Constant balancing act
  • Need for open communication about process
  • Concerns about what is being monitored and quality of monitoring
  • Concern about perception that serious water issues only in south; there many issues in the north

Hydraulic fracturing and water use

  • Concerns about regulations tacked onto existing system; need regulations aligned with new industries
  • Need to look at issue from long-term, integrated point of view, specific to the industry
  • Some fear about contamination, use of potable water for industry
  • Incentives needed for conservation so water is used wisely
  • Many unknowns about fracturing
  • Uncertainty about government, industry and environmental non-government organizations information about fracturing
  • Incentivize conservation
Photo of session participants in Medicine Hat

Lots of productive water talk in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat

In attendance: 60

Healthy Lakes (and Reservoirs)

“Hatters” were quick to point out there are no lakes in the area, so we expanded the category to include reservoirs and were able to move forward to everyone’s satisfaction. We heard a lot of interesting feedback under this category. Some of the points raised included:

  • 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 that the current system was working fine, so why try to fix it by adding more oversight. Other feedback we heard included:

  • One size doesn’t fit all – even if we take 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 that the 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 cooperation – 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 – you can’t manage what you don’t measure
  • More information on groundwater was needed

A common theme throughout all the conversation topics was the need for education around conserving water.

Upcoming Community Conversations

Wednesday, February 20

Peace River
Belle Petroleum Conf Centre
9403 – 94 Street
Milk River
Civic Centre
321 – 3 Avenue NE   

 

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