The Red Deer River Watershed Alliance has kicked off its year-long community consultation process with the first of many forums detailing the current conditions and issues that impact the health of the Central Alberta watershed.
This exchange of information will continue in workshops through the next 12 months, with residents, municipalities, industry and stewardship groups eventually being asked prioritize ways to improve the health of the watershed.
All of this data will be compiled into the Integrated Watershed Management Plan, which will detail targets and thresholds to ensure sustainable long-term practices for each region.
“Water is absolutely essential for life,” Beverly Anderson, executive director of the alliance, said at the community forum in Red Deer on Wednesday.
“We need to act now because the future is now. We don’t have a lot of time to delay on taking action.”
She noted only two of the Red Deer River Watershed’s 15 sub-watersheds are in good condition. Five are in poor condition and eight are considered to be in average health.
The first group of workshops focused on water quality and quantity in each of the sub-watersheds.
Sessions were held in Sundre on Tuesday and Red Deer on Wednesday, with another scheduled today in Oyen.
The meeting in Sundre focused on the upper region, including the Panther, James, Raven and Little Red Deer sub-watersheds.
The meeting in Red Deer looked at the middle region, including the Medicine, Blindman, Waskasoo, Buffalo, Three Hills, Kneehills and Rosebud sub-watersheds.
And the meeting in Oyen is concerned with the lower region, including the Michichi, Berry, Matzhiwin and Alkali sub-watersheds.
Representatives from Alberta Environment, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development shared their expertise with the more than 40 people who attended the city event.
Discussions included how nutrients, pesticides and parasites all impact the health of the watershed.
The next sessions, which will look at land use and biodiversity, are scheduled for Oct. 26 in Sundre, Oct. 27 in Red Deer and Oct. 28 in Oyen.
Meetings to be held between Nov. 23 and 25 will give community members a chance to identify priorities for each region.
Starting in 2011, members in each region will discuss what targets and thresholds they can manage.
Everyone is welcomed to attend all of these workshops.
“Ultimately, we would like to see people, whether they’re a small group or a big group or a government agency, put in place mechanisms to have us have a healthy watershed,” Anderson said.
“Everyone does have an impact and they need to be involved.”
Anderson noted that the Integrated Watershed Management Plan will not deal with implementation.
Taking action will be the responsibilities of various groups, such as municipal government, she explained.
The Red Deer River Watershed encompasses 13 municipal districts and 50 urban centres.
The diverse area spans from the Rocky Mountains to the Saskatchewan border and from north of Bashaw down to Brooks.
For more information, visit www.rdrwa.ca.