How Blue is Your Bottom Line?
August 28, 2012
UN 'Water for Life' Best Water Management Practices Award
August 24, 2012
A sustainable water strategy is good for business
July 27, 2012
The 3rd Annual Canadian Water Summit Report
July 23, 2012
Time to plug biggest leak in city's budget bucket
December 28, 2010
A resource worth more attention
September 4, 2010
Water sources do not obey political boundaries
September 3, 2010
By Bev Betkowski
Reprinted from the University of Alberta Express News
A small survey of residents living in drought-stricken east-central Alberta revealed a low level of trust and a high level of skepticism with government programs that pertain to water issues, said Gaylene Halter, PhD student in environmental sociology in the U of A's Department of Rural Economy.
"Many people I interviewed felt they had no real voice in shaping water legislation, and didn't feel they were part of the consultation process," said Halter. "One outcome of my research is a strong sense that many Albertans have lost interest in public dialogue and democratic debate. A sense of consultation 'fatigue' was also apparent."
The findings are part of an ongoing study on water culture in Alberta being conducted by Halter.
She has forwarded several recommendations to the Alberta Institute for Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment, which was established by the government in 2008 to deal with increasing pressure on the province's natural resources.
"Water comes out of our taps every day, but beyond that, we don't tend to think much about it. One of the most complex questions is how to determine economic policies around distribution of water, and linked to that is the level of knowledge people have about water issues."
As part of the project, Halter gathered public input to gauge economic policies for improving the quality and quantity of water and to address ongoing issues such as sale of water, protection for sensitive riverbank areas, pollution from upstream urban areas, industries and agricultural runoff, and making regulatory policy more effective for everyone who shares the water—communities, industries and government.
For her study, Halter focused on the Battle River Watershed in Alberta, an area that has struggled with drought since 2000. The watershed is a large area of landcovering most of east-central Alberta that drains into the Battle River. The area covers approximately 30,000 square kilometres; 83 per cent in Alberta, the remainder in Saskatchewan.
Between April of 2009 and April of 2010, Halter conducted interviews in the Battle River area with elected officials, business owners, municipal workers, farmers and others with specific personal or professional interests in water management.
Besides a lack of faith in past public consultation processes, the research revealed other concerns about water policy:
Halter hopes that the province will heed her findings, especially those that recommend more local input into water policy.
"The province needs to take a serious look at having citizens draft policies for their communities," she said.
Bill 36, under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, allows for regional plans to be made, but they can be unilaterally changed under an order in-council.
"My study showed that the public perception is that the current consultation process is more of a show-and-tell rather than having residents develop water regulation," Halter said. "Without direct involvement from the community, people will be reluctant to accept and follow water resource management plans."