Choosing The Right Direction For Water Conservation

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“We need to be smarter about future growth to be truly effective.”

As Alberta moves toward completion of its Landuse Framework, there continues to be questions about how water will be managed, Evan Berger, Livingston-Macleod MLA and parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.

“We need to be smarter about future growth to be truly effective,” told the annual meeting of the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association’s here in early February.

About 1.5 million people, or half of Alberta’s total population, make their homes in a region with the least amount of water, said Berger. Furthermore, about 75 per cent of Alberta’s species are at risk in the southeast.

The goal of land use planning is to incorporate all factors into development decisions. For instance, a new subdivision, highway or factory can affect water, but it also affects the regional balance of air, land and quality of life. “Economic and population growth has brought us to a crossroads in water and land management,” said Berger. “So much of our future depends of which path we choose.”

Within the Land-use Framework final report, there’s a new strategy to promote the efficient use of land and reduce human footprint. This strategy applies to all forms of development, including agriculture. Options to meet strategy targets could include higher population densities, greener technologies, and more efficient-energy systems.

Berger said southern Alberta is already ahead of the curve when it comes to water conservation, due in part to its successful irrigation systems. “Irrigation is at the heart of southern Alberta’s economic, environmental and social development,” he said. “Not only does irrigation contribute to 18 per cent of Alberta’s agri-food GDP, it also supplies water to municipalities and wildlife habitat.”

Picture Butte producer Evert Tanis expressed some concern about the province’s land use policy.

“When it comes to development, agriculture seems to be on the bottom of the list. When is the government going to make food production on good quality land a priority over industrial development on marginal land?” Berger said that’s exactly what the Landuse Framework is trying to achieve. “The goal is to provide and protect a balance in all these uses.”

More details about the implementation of the framework and terms of reference for regional plans are set to be released this spring.

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