U of L researchers to present report

Water is the lifeblood of agriculture in southern Alberta and learning how to best manage water is key to sustaining the industry.

A group of University of Lethbridge Economics researchers have prepared an in-depth report on water issues for the members and stakeholders of the SouthGrow Regional Initiative to help support the economic well being of the area.

"Water is a vital resource and it impacts greatly on the economic health and the quality of life of this region considerably," said Sandra Nelson, a Stirling, Alta resident and the Chair of SouthGrow.

"This report provides our members with insight into the current state activities surrounding the issues of sound water management. It also identifies and provides recommendations about the role SouthGrow could play in ensuring a sustainable water supply for investment, economic development and the long term vision of this region."

The report, entitled "Water for Economic Development in the SouthGrow Region of Alberta" was prepared by Research Associate Lorraine Nicol, Dr. Henning Bjornlund and Dr. Kurt Klein. It highlights unique opportunities as well as significant challenges to managing water issues now, and in the future.

The researchers will release and discuss the report in Lethbridge at an information session hosted by SouthGrow that takes place Thursday, Mar. 19, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Lethbridge Lodge Hotel and Conference Centre, 320 Scenic Drive S.

The event includes a presentation by the researchers and a moderated discussion period for stakeholders.

There are several important constraints to water availability in southern Alberta. The first (and most important) is the restriction on the issuing of new water licenses within the two river basins.

Second, certain procedures impede the operation of water markets.

Third, there are potential long-run negative effects on water supply from such factors as climate change.

Fourth, several policy and legislative uncertainties remain, including how implementation of the Water for Life strategy will unfold, especially with the possibility of implementation of economic instruments; whether, given the recent announcement of the review of the water allocation system, that system will remain intact; whether the watershed planning and advisory councils will be able to achieve their objectives; and the outcome of the International Joint Commission response on apportionment of flows of the St. Mary and Milk Rivers between Canada and the United States.

Finally, as water becomes more scarce and valuable in Alberta, a cultural and political divide seems to be intensifying between urban, agricultural and conservation interests in Alberta that recently were manifested in an outcry over amendments to irrigation district licenses and the sale of an irrigation water license to an urban development.

These topics are likely to invoke a lively discussion. All are invited to attend.