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AWARE group sounds warning about water issues

Posted on April 25, 2024 by Vauxhall Advance

We all need water. But will it be available for everyone this summer? 

Last year in Alberta, several agricultural states of emergency were declared across the province due to drought. Some municipalities implemented water restrictions for residents. This year could be worse with a current low snowpack in the mountains, limited precipitation, a low groundwater table, and extremely low water levels in river basins and reservoirs. 

With growing concern about our water supply in southeastern Alberta, a group of Medicine Hat residents attended an April 6 virtual presentation by Dr. Stefan Kienzle. Dr. Kienzle is a University of Lethbridge Professor Emeritus from the Department of Geography and Environment. We learned that it would take years of above average precipitation to return to average water amounts across the South Saskatchewan River Basin. Alberta is currently in stage 4 (out of 5) in its water shortage management response plan. Stage 5 of this plan means that a State of Emergency declaration would be made under the Water Act. He also shared that 85 to 90 per cent of the water in southern Alberta is used for irrigation. 

Because of years of drought, less water is available for farmers and ranchers this year. Protecting the supply of water that we do have is critical, particularly the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains which are crucial for preserving water quality and quantity. When asked about a proposed coal mine in southeastern Alberta, Dr. Stefan Kienzle said “we must say no to any mining in our mountains” due to environmental impacts. Dr. Kienzle also noted that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) should not be permitted near the mountains as large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are leaking into the atmosphere during the process. Also, high volumes of water are needed for fracking and is stored underground forever. 

Water is needed by all of us for day-to-day living, for farming and ranching, for food production. Dr. Kienzle did share that, as citizens, we can do our part. We were encouraged to share what we’ve learned with others and to do our part by using less water. Actions can include taking shorter showers, washing our vehicles less often, using rain barrels for watering plants and gardens, xeriscaping or letting our lawns go brown. 

Because we appreciated his presentation so much, we hope to have Dr. Kienzle offer another presentation for interested residents in the future. 

AWARE: A new group of Medicine Hat and area residents working toward improving awareness of important issues so that we can all take action to become more involved citizens. Members include Betty Aiken, Shelley Ewing, Anna Hansen, Kevin Hansen, Ashley Large, Kim Large, Jacquie Olynyk, and Michelle Sauve.

Michelle Sauve,
Medicine Hat

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