(Contributed photo).

Rally for the health of the Red Deer River

Watershed threatened by pollution, habitat fragmentation and water overuse: report

The Red Deer River basin is one of Canada’s most at-risk watersheds, according to a World Wildlife Fund study.

Threats to the Red Deer River watershed are ranked as very high, including pollution, habitat fragmentation and the overuse of water.

While the river is considered generally healthy in the report completed last spring, World Wildlife Fund research found the basin faces serious challenges, said Josée Méthot, a planning manager with the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.

Méthot noted the water quality of the Red Deer River was found to decline the further the water body winds away from its mountain headwaters towards the Saskatchewan border.

The entire region is also becoming water-stressed, due to human and natural factors. “How much water will be available in future will depend on climate change… so it’s a wild card,” Méthot added.

To skew the odds in the river’s favour, the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance is holding a “Rally for the River” event on Sept. 8 for interested municipal, First Nations, business and non-profit representatives, as well as interested members of the general public.

The goal is to raise awareness of how we can all increase stewardship and alleviate stresses on the river landscape, which covers an area of 49,000-square kms and is home to 300,000 Central Albertans.

Landscape ecologist Dr. Brad Stelfox, of Calgary, will speak at the event that runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Red Deer Golf and Country Club. Stelfox will discuss about how land uses along the watershed have changed over time, how this influences water quality, and what this could mean for future watershed health.

The rally will also showcase the work of Project Blue Thumb, a social innovation lab of the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.

Méthot said six new “action pathways” to help maintain the river will be launched. These include the preservation of riparian areas, aquifers and wetlands, support for municipal mapping of these areas, and expanding public education “and messaging” about the river.

“All are invited… to learn the story of the Red Deer River Watershed and help launch a new course forward,” she added.

Anyone interested is asked to RSVP by calling 403-340-7379 (lunch is included).

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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