What role can municipalities play in watershed management?
The Red Deer River Watershed Alliance is pleased to release the newest video in our Spotlight Series, Planning for Tomorrow as our gift to you this holiday season!
Designed as a resource for municipalities, Planning for Tomorrow asks elected officials, scientists and municipal staff to share insights about how to better integrate land use and water resources into municipal plans and programs, while working towards building economic prosperity and resilient communities. The decisions made about land use and water today will shape tomorrow. The Red Deer River watershed’s status as a water-constrained basin, coupled with increasing growth in various sectors and changing land-use patterns, requires a thoughtful and coordinated approach to watershed management. The Planning for Tomorrow video profiles some of the opportunities available to local municipalities, including:
- Ecological Profile Process (City of Red Deer) – This process considers the land and water as an integrated system, and looks at ecological and water features, streams, recharge areas, species diversity before development occurs. This information is used to plan and design neighbourhoods, while balancing the need for urban development and protecting ecological features.
- Natural Assets – Many municipalities are recognizing the potential civic assets provided by natural resources or ecosystems such as wetlands and forests that provide multiple benefits (ecosystem services) for people and the environment, and incorporating them into planning and development processes.
As one of 11 provincial Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs), a key role of the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance is to act as a multi-sector forum, providing people and organizations with the knowledge and tools they require to make future-focused, well-informed decisions regarding land and water issues in central Alberta, in order to plan for tomorrow. The RDRWA continues to listen to the concerns of our partner municipalities as we work together to find ways to balance effective planning and conservation with development.
For more information on beneficial practices and the integrated management of land and water resources, please visit www.rdrwa.ca. Be sure to check out the other videos in our Spotlight Series on gravel-bed rivers and climate change in the Red Deer River watershed.
Additional Context: The Red Deer River watershed is vast, covering an area of 49,650 km2, and is home to over 300,000 people and 54 urban municipalities, including the cities of Red Deer and Brooks. The watershed also includes 20 specialized municipalities, over 13,000 farms, and a diverse range of industries. As key land use decision-makers, municipalities play a vital role in maintaining and improving watershed health across this busy landscape, but many areas are facing a convergence of growth pressures and water management issues.
Municipalities are key partners in watershed management efforts, yet face a growing set of challenges. Many municipalities in the Red Deer River watershed have experienced flood and drought events in recent years, and many areas in the basin are considered at high risk for future flood and drought events. For municipalities, a changing climate and increasing hydrological variability can pose challenges to the provision of core municipal services, especially at a time when many municipalities face a fiscal crunch.
The Red Deer River watershed is part of the larger South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB), which also includes the Bow, Oldman, and South Saskatchewan sub-basins. It is also in the unique position of being the only sub-basin in the SSRB still open to new surface water allocations (with some exceptions). As various sectors and communities grapple with growth in the context of limited water supplies, the Red Deer River watershed is increasingly a key topic of conversation.