How can local communities prepare for drought and build resilience?
The Red Deer River Watershed Alliance’s Fall Forum was held on November 10th, with over 50 municipal staff, elected officials, and key stakeholders participating in a conference exploring the hot topic of drought.
When in Drought? New Strategies for Municipal Drought Management and Resilience in Alberta profiled the drought context in central Alberta and in neighbouring jurisdictions, as well as the role that natural assets, like forests or wetlands, can play in supporting local resilience. The RDRWA held the conference using a new interactive virtual conference platform – Remo – that allowed people to network at tables and move around the room for breakout sessions.
The Honourable Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks welcomed attendees to the forum via a recorded video message, and spoke to the Government of Alberta’s role as a key partner in Water for Life, as well as the importance of Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils and key initiatives, including the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program (WRRP). RDRWA Executive Director, Josée Méthot provided an update on the work of the Alliance, and gave a demonstration of the RDRWA’s recently completed Hydrologically Significant Areas project, and new interactive mapping portal. Krista Quesnel, Manager of Sustainability with Parkland County also provided a demonstration of the tools Parkland County uses to lead riparian management.
Roy Brooke (Municipal Natural Assets Initiative – MNAI) highlighted examples of natural asset management across Canada, and shared opportunities for local governments to better integrate natural assets and resilience into planning processes during his keynote presentation. Our second keynote speaker, Anastasia Mourogova-Millin (Dark Matter Labs) challenged attendees to think about changing global markets, and the important role that new financial instruments can play in driving investments into regional flood and drought efforts. Anastasia encouraged municipalities to consider emerging financials models that attract investments into regional natural and civic assets. Our final keynote, Dr. Paige Olmsted (Smart Prosperity Institute) gave an excellent synopsis of key challenges and opportunities facing nature-based solutions in Canada, alongside the economic case for natural asset management.
The Fall Forum concluded with a moderated panel discussion with Oliver Brandes (POLIS Water Sustainability Project), Tim Romanow (Milk River Watershed Council of Canada), the keynotes Roy Brooke, Anastasia Mourogova Millin, and Dr. Paige Olmsted. The panelists reflected on what we heard about natural and civic assets during the morning’s keynote presentations and discussed ideas around first steps for municipalities or organizations who want to build natural or civic assets into their management. The panel also spoke to their own personal experiences with drought, and the uncertainty around future climate and drought conditions within Alberta; sharing ideas around how we might plan for the future and redefine our management plans to include drought and natural assets.
On behalf of the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance, thank-you to everyone who attended When In Drought? New Strategies for Municipal Drought Management and Resilience in Alberta. We were inspired by your thoughtful comments and questions, and look forward to connecting with you at our next event in 2022.
(Recordings of the keynote presentations will be available on the RDRWA’s YouTube channel soon.)