Water Conversation: Milk River

Photo of a dinosaur outside a restaurant in Milk River

Outside a restaurant in Milk River

Wednesday was another great day on the water conversation tour as we visited two more communities, Milk River in the south and Peace River in the north.

Milk River is a small agricultural community near the United States border. The Milk River watershed holds the distinction as the only river in Canada to flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Because activity in one area of a watershed affects the environment downstream, we cooperate closely with our southern neighbours through a transboundary agreement to ensure the needs of both jurisdictions are met. First signed in 1909, this agreement is almost as old as our province.

Thank you to the residents who took time out of their busy schedules to share their thoughts on water issues in the region.  Here’s what they had to say.

Milk River

In attendance: 20

Healthy Lakes (and Reservoirs)

Like most of southern Alberta, this region does not contain any natural lakes, so much of the discussion was around healthy reservoirs.

  • Need clarity around the use of reservoirs during times of scarcity: what is the priority, for example, recreation or agriculture? Related to this point was that many people aren’t aware why certain reservoirs were built.
  • Provincial standards or a provincial framework for healthy lakes and reservoirs is seen as a positive direction, so long as these pieces support and back up local management efforts.
  • There was also support to limit development around reservoirs and lakes to better protect ecosystems from agricultural activities or from over development.
Photo of Milk River residents at the Water Conversation

Great conversation in Milk River

Drinking Water and Wastewater

  • Encourage conservation of treated water through the use of grey water and dual water systems (potable / raw)
  • Since there are already existing geographic water systems in the area, local expertise should not be lost if moved to larger regional or geographic systems.
  • Continually increasing water and wastewater treatment standards means increasing and unreasonable infrastructure costs – questions arose on whether the changes in provincial standards are truly necessary. 

Hydraulic Fracturing and Water

The extreme importance of well and aquifer protection was stressed by many people.

  • Province must take a proactive approach
  • Integrity and credibility of monitoring and reporting along with rigourous baseline monitoring in areas of development is a necessity
  • Giving Albertans the tools to understand the information was seen as extremely important
  • Many participants felt they were not informed enough on fracking, but were interested in being educated on the topic. They felt that these communications should be locally driven with provincial content experts present to support.

Water Management

Water storage was a major topic of conversation.

  • Many felt that there isn’t a scarcity problem in the MilkRiver area, but there was a management problem that a reservoir could fix.
  • Building a reservoir would benefit the people in the area as well as help the entire ecosystem by managing the flow properly.
  • Better science and baseline studies on the watershed are needed. There is also an appetite for more data and more transparency.
  • Need to set priorities and plan ahead better – droughts do occur, so need to be better prepared for long-term events.

Cover of the Water Conversation guideIf you’re unable to attend a community session in person, we encourage you to learn more through the conversation guide and provide your feedback through the online workbook.

Upcoming Sessions

Thursday, February 21
Hinton Centre
965 Switzer Drive
5 – 8 p.m.

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