Alberta weak on wetlands

EDMONTON — An environmental group says a promise from the Alberta government for action on water management over the next decade is too little too late.

EDMONTON — An environmental group says a promise from the Alberta government for action on water management over the next decade is too little too late.

Carolyn Campbell of the Alberta Wilderness Association says when the province announced its Water for Life strategy back in 2003, it promised there would be a wetland policy in place by 2007.

But Campbell says the renewed Water for Life plan, released by the government on Friday, still doesn’t have a commitment to establish a wetland policy until 2012.

Campbell adds it won’t be until 2015 the province actually establishes on-the-ground practices and sets up an inventory to identify wetlands.

She says the five-year delay is not acceptable.

Environment Minister Rob Renner says the renewed strategy will set the direction for water management in Alberta for the next 10 years.

“Economic and population growth in Alberta over the past several years has put increased pressure on Alberta’s water supplies,” said Renner. “The strategy and action plan respond to growing demand and provides the roadmap to manage and protect Alberta’s water.”

Campbell said environmental groups though the new plan was going to be released last spring.

“We’re happy that it’s out, so we know at least what to expect,” she said. “But we’re really concerned because it seems after five years of Water For Life there’s still not a priority on healthy aquatic eco-systems.”

She said the problem is that most Albertans don’t realize how important the issue is and so aren’t putting pressure on the government to act.

“We know that if you have healthy streams, lakes, shores and wetlands, that is a major benefit for flood protection, for drought protection, for groundwater sustainability and also for water quality.”

She said industrial users have been damaging wetlands without having to face any consequences.

“In the northern part of Alberta, which is mostly public lands, we have yet to have a provincial wetland policy that is protective of wetland,” Campbell complained.

“It’s critical because of all the intensive land use going on with oilsands, with conventional energy and with forestry in our public lands in the northern part of Alberta.”

The Water For Life plans also promises to institute mandatory public reporting for major water licence holders; develop a surveillance system for waterborne diseases; look at the impact of climate change on the province’s water supply; and ensure safe drinking water in aboriginal communities.