Battle River Watershed Regional Case
This regional case is informed by a history of established research collaborations in rural and remote communities, led by the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities (ASCRC) at the University of Alberta and the Battle River Watershed Alliance. The research team has a long-standing orientation to the importance of watersheds as integrative, ecologically-coherent, intersectoral context for understanding complex driving forces of change across land, water, community and health concerns.
Regional Case Updates
First off, a big thank-you to everyone who attended the 2018 ECHO Network Annual Meeting in the Battle River watershed! It was wonderful to share a taste of our Saskatoon berries, Battle River landscapes, and local stewards who are working to protect this place that we love.
In Fall 2018, the Battle River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) has been progressing its work in the areas of source water protection and riparian restoration. We are involved in a project team of the Alberta Water Council that is developing a guidance document to inform a common approach to source water protection across Alberta and provide implementation tools to support this work. Protecting sources of drinking water is an area that would benefit immensely from further integration of health, community, and environment considerations. In the Battle River watershed, this integrative work is currently being undertaken through implementation of the Camrose Source Water Protection Plan. This includes working with agricultural producers to implement beneficial management practices (BMPs) near water, which is the central focus of the BRWA’s Buffalo Trail Riparian Restoration Program. We have been connecting with local landowners through various outreach events over the past year, including this summer’s field day focused on riparian health and livestock watering system options. A number of agricultural producers along the Battle River and tributary streams have expressed interest in implementing BMPs on their land, and the BRWA and our program partners plan to provide technical and financial support for these projects in 2019.
The BRWA was also happy to provide a presentation as part of the October “EcoHealth in Action” webalogue hosted by the western node of CoPEH-Canada. The webalogue highlighted current projects of the four regional cases of the ECHO Network, and was a great opportunity to gain valuable feedback from a wider audience.
All of us here in the Battle River Watershed Regional Case are excited to welcome many of you to Camrose, Alberta for the 2018 ECHO Network Annual Meeting in just a few days! We look forward to introducing you to a few of the landscapes that make this prairie-fed watershed so special.
We face many challenges, but we also have a passionate community of people committed to protecting this beautiful place we call home! Municipal partnerships have been an important focus of our work over the past few months. The BRWA hosted two Municipal Watershed Forums aimed at connecting with municipal staff and councillors on topics of watershed education, stewardship, and management.
These forums also provided an opportunity for us to introduce our municipal partners to the ECHO Network and some of the ways we’re seeking to integrate environment, community, and health in our watershed work. ECHO Research Assistant Dar Amsalu has also been connecting with several municipal representatives through interviews focused on looking into the environment, community, and health data needs of municipalities in the Battle River watershed.
In June, we were able to introduce more watershed residents to the ECHO Network during the BRWA’s Annual General Meeting, as well as at the biennial Summit of Alberta’s Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils. The “echoes” of the Network continue to reach further into our watershed community! Next steps centre on progressing our work to develop a more integrated watershed health indicator framework
Climate change, energy options, riparian restoration, and community engagement have been central themes of the Battle River Watershed Alliance’s work as 2018 begins. In February, we hosted the world premiere of our “Finding Common Ground” documentary at the Daysland Palace Theatre. The documentary tells the story and key learnings of our fall 2017 bike tour, which explored the complex dynamics between energy options, climate change, and community resilience in the Battle River region of Alberta. The event was well attended and sparked great conversations. These conversations will continue, as we plan to host a number of other community and youth engagement events on the subject over the coming months. In celebration of World Water Day, and as a wrap-up for our Ponoka Riparian Restoration Program, the BRWA is hosting an event on March 22 that will include information
about native and invasive aquatic species, riparian health assessments, and on-the-ground stewardship actions that are supporting the health of land and water in the Ponoka region. We’re also looking forward to hosting two Municipal Watershed Forums in April to meet with municipal staff and councillors from across the watershed and share information and ideas on our collective work of watershed education, stewardship, and management.
ECHO Network research assistant Dar Amsalu is currently developing a report that investigates common approaches to assessing the potential health impacts of drinking water contamination, particularly as it pertains to human cancer. This information will support future work with Alberta Health Services.
The Battle River Watershed Alliance has had an exciting fall, with many projects on the go! We hosted an engaging and informative “Finding Common Ground” bike tour from September 5-7th, which included visits to many energy and resource development hubs in our watershed. Discussions centred around the question of how we “power our way forward”, and touched on the complex ways in which economic, community, and ecological considerations inform how we approach energy options and opportunities in our watershed. We are currently developing a “how-to” guide to provide ECHO Network partners with insight into the process we undertook to plan and implement the bike tour. We were happy to host many members of the BC ECHO Team in Camrose on October 2nd. The morning included lively discussions about “state of the watershed” reporting and indicator development, experiential education connections between AB and BC, and other ECHO-related work. In the afternoon, the team ventured out into the snowy weather for a mini-tour of the watershed.
ECHO Network Research Assistant Dar Amsalu has been working to pull together information on the plethora of environment, community, and health data sets available in Alberta and across Canada, which will help inform our work of developing a more robust watershed health indicator framework. Dar is also undertaking a literature review to investigate potential linkages between cancer and drinking water contamination in Canada and the US. This information will support future work with Alberta Health Services.
Looking ahead to the new year, the BRWA is planning to host two Municipal Watershed Forums in March 2018 to connect with new and returning municipal staff and councillors following the October 2017 Alberta elections. This will be an opportunity to update municipalities on the BRWA’s current work and discuss possibilities for future work and partnerships. We look forward to working with ECHO team members to incorporate environment, community, and health discussions into these forums.
The Battle River Watershed Alliance (BRWA) has several projects on the go that connect with the ECHO Network. We are working with the City of Camrose to develop educational materials related to the Camrose Source Water Protection Plan, and have initiated a new riparian restoration pro- gram in the eastern reaches of our watershed. Plans are underway for a “Finding Common Ground” bike tour of the watershed in September, a key focus of which will be the intersection of climate change, our energy choices, and our collective health and wellbeing. We will be visiting several energy hubs in the region, including the Hardisty tank farm, Halkirk wind facility, and Battle River coal-fired generating station. We are also excited to work with Dar Amsalu, the ECHO Network Research Assistant based out of the University of Alberta, and are in conversation with Alberta Health Services about the possibility of examining the potential links between energy development, groundwater quality, and community health in the watershed. Many exciting things are happening, and we look forward to collaborating with the ECHO Net- work to enhance our efforts further!