Raging Grannies fight for value of water in Alberta

Raging Grannies fight for value of water by Sharon McLeay, April 5, 2013, Strathmore Times
Open dialogue characterized the discussions at the Alberta Government Water Conversation open house held in Calgary March 20. Similar open houses were held throughout the province. The Raging Grannies, an activist group out of Calgary, crashed the gate, hoping to make a passionate plea for safe, clean water. They were surprised when they were asked to open the sessions. “We weren’t invited, usually they don’t let us in,” said a Granny spokeswoman. “We want more accountability and to have the government recognize and respect that Albertans have a history and a strong attachment to our land and landscape,” said another Granny about her purpose for being at the meeting. “That was a brilliant start to our sessions. We are hoping that you will bring that passion to the discussions in your group settings today,” said Martin Foy, Director of the Southern Region for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD). There was a blend of people participating in the sessions. Some were there as concerned citizens, with group affiliations, aboriginal speakers and lobby groups. There was no opening speech outlining the government position. Instead, participants broke into four groups discussing factors and suggestions around Healthy Lakes, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water, Water Management and Water Flow optimization. The majority of people wanted a larger value put on our water resources and indicated that human needs trumped industrial development.

In the discussion on Hydraulic Fracturing and Water use, direction was asked for on policy around water conservation, testing of water, information transparency and new approaches to the cumulative effects the industry has on water resources. Participants responded they would like to see a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing practises until more information is available on the effects to underground structures and water. Human, animal and environmental needs are to be set as a priority. They wanted the use of fresh water taken off the table. Increase infraction penalties and develop a cost to industry for water use, making water more valuable. Make baseline well testing mandatory. Map wells and water sources. There should be mandatory monitoring of all oil activity. Recycle and clean up residual drilling fluids, and provide clearer information on what the super regulating bodies do. Ideas were wanted for the issue of water scarcity and providing for long term population and economic growth. How should water be shared? A Government spokesperson wanted to be clear that the government had no plans to sell water to the United States. Participants made it very clear that water was not a commodity to be bought and sold. They said water is valuable and there should be education and incentive programs around conservation and management. That fresh water should be available to everyone and there should be legislation to that effect. Find new ways to utilize and stabilize high and low water flow. Develop ways for sharing license rights, without buying or selling water.

Foy concluded the discussions by emphasizing that the government is hoping to engage Albertans in the discussions around water and the results of the open houses will be consolidated and posted online. The next step will be to come up with policies for water from the open house suggestions and Foy said there would be a second round of public discussion on that.

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