Water conversation: Bonnyville and Lethbridge

The Water Conversation saw good turnout in Bonnyville and Lethbridge. Bonnyville’s attendees included representatives from many local environmental and municipal groups, as well as  local MLA Genia Leskiw, the mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland and the deputy mayor of Bonnyville, John Irwin.

Minister McQueen and MLA Bridget Pastoor attended the public session in Lethbridge. In her closing remarks, Minister McQueen commented on the positive feedback she has received on the process, and how much she enjoyed listening to the conversations of various tables. She reminded those in attendance that a ‘What We Heard’ document will be released after the sessions are complete, which will summarize the conversation and identify key priorities for moving forward.

Bonnyville

In attendance: 64

Healthy lakes

  • Conservation is critical
    Need more integration between all different government policies
    Each lake needs to be looked at individually, guided by overarching government policies
  • No industrial development should take place near a lake
  • When decisions have been made by a municipality, it’s disrespectful for another level of government to overturn decision

Drinking water and wastewater systems

  • Encouraging regional partnership, but needs to be equity of power within the partnership
    Enforcement critical
  • Province needs to more forward quicker
  • Transparency
  • Industry must be more accountable
  • Everyone has the right to clean water
  • Focus on education and conservation
  • Government needs to take more of a leadership role when it comes to regional systems

Hydraulic fracturing

  • Not common in region – more education and transparency needed
  • Information needs to be science-based and independent
  • Water before oil – fresh water should be used last for this activity
  • Need a more integrated approach to understanding what is happening underground with various projects
  • Government direction seems reasonable
  • Transparency and unbiased information is needed
  • Proceed with caution

Water management

  • Conservation is critical to any water management decision
  • Needs to be an adaptable management approach
  • Must be long-term
  • If licence holders do not use all their allocated water, they should not be able to sell the unused portion
  • Policy should include all users
  • Education needed to dispel myths about licences
  • Water conservation is critical – need incentives to conserve
  • No one-size fits all approach
  • Need to work with local water stewards
  • Need to collect more data
  • Now is the time to take action

Lethbridge

In attendance: 51

Healthy lakes

  • Can’t take blanket approach; there are regional differences among lakes
  • More clarity is needed on rules for development setbacks from lakes
  • Riparian areas (interfaces between land and rivers/streams): be more conscious of activities here to protect health of lakes
  • Recognize that the primary purpose of reservoirs is irrigation
  • Local knowledge and understanding of issues is key
  • Empower municipalities and WPACs to take on management role
  • Recognize other impacts on lake water quality
  • Wildlife contributions to nutrient content in lakes: need more info
  • Need enforcement above all else, sampling for data to influence management decisions
  • Awareness that there is a lot of different data collection going on – find way to centralize and share, make more understandable to users and public

Drinking water and wastewater systems

  • Important to manage quality of water sources
  • Wetlands are beneficial – they affect water downstream
  • Government needs to address water supply issues
  • Important to conserve existing supply
  • More attention to wastewater treatment, especially chemicals and pharmaceuticals
  • Support for government addressing inequities and imbalances in access to water, i.e., urban versus rural supplies
  • Merit in geographic approach to water management
  • Share management capacities across regions, albeit local management and control paramount
  • Avoid privatization

Hydraulic fracturing

  • Need to update conservation policies to address fracturing
  • Look at increasing royalties based on water use
  • Thresholds: should there be a limit, beyond which fracturing should not be permitted?
  • More policing of people using water for this purpose
  • Slow down industry if too much water used?
  • Look at cumulative effects
  • Baseline groundwater testing – this should be expanded, and it should be government doing testing
  • Look at introducing a system of damage deposits, returned if there is no damage to water supply
  • Information transparency needed for public to know more about what’s going on – it is difficult for public to give consent if they do not have access to data
  • Need to look at multiple factors – volume of water used, plus context, versus other users

Water management

  • To meet future supply needs, government will have to address the issue of storage
  • Incentives encourage conservation, but we also need to address disincentives (i.e. ‘use it or lose it’)
  • Regional planning on watershed basis needs to align with other plans and priorities

Upcoming Sessions

The water conversation tour will take a break next week before resuming in SlaveLake and Rocky Mountain House on March 12.

If 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.

Join us for a live Twitter chat on Wednesday, March 6 from 12-1:30 p.m. Send us your questions to @AENV_SRD and follow the conversation by using the #abwater hashtag.

Tues, March 12
Rocky Mountain House
Lou Soppit Community Centre
4733 – 54 Avenue
Tues, March 12
Slave Lake
Slave Lake Inn & Conf Centre
1200 Main Street SW
Wed, March 13
Thorsby
Thorsby Community Centre
4813 – 49 Street
Thurs, March 14
Red Deer
iHotel (formerly Holiday Inn)
6500 – 67 Street
Thurs, March 14
Fort McMurray
Sawridge Inn & Conf Centre
530 MacKenzie Blvd

6 thoughts on “Water conversation: Bonnyville and Lethbridge

  1. Sorry i missesd the lethbridge meeting. Even more sorry to hear 40 some particapents were tricked into leaveing the meeting before there voice could be heard about the plans to close our forestry to all access without consulting any of the public on such an important issue. Those who are resonsable for such a decission should be ashamed that they are that spineless

  2. I attended the Bonnyville water conversation. I noticed that it was mentioned that the Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland, was present. There was no mention that the Deputy Mayor of Bonnyville, John Irwin, was also present.

      • Thank you AB ESRD for promptly updating your post. As previously mentioned, I attended the Bonnyville water conversation. Overall, it was very positive and productive. The facilitators were awesome with keeping the participants on topic and ensuring equal time at the conversation tables. It was quite a treat to have knowledgeable ESRD personnel on site who were ready, willing and available to answer questions pertaining to the four specific water conversation topics. Icing on the cake would have been to have the AB Minister attend our session. The only frustration that I found about the session (and a notable one at that) was that it was difficult to hear the participants speak and to be heard. This was because there were no sound barriers separating the conversation tables at the venue site and conversations at each table echoed throughout the hall. Again, the facilitators were awesome with keeping the participants on topic, so that discussions that did exist were relevant to the water conversation topics at hand. Thanks again to all of those involved in the preparation, planning, facilitating and attendance of the water conversation in our area!

    • Hi Tyler,

      Sorry about that. The doors open at 5 p.m. and the facilitiated workshop runs from 5:30-8 p.m. I’ll be sure to include the times on the blogs going forward.

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