During the development of the provincial Water for Life strategy, Albertans told the government they wanted to be involved in watershed management. The government agreed, and provided clear direction in Water for Life that watershed management is a shared responsibility to be carried out through partnership with Albertans. SEAWA, the South East Alberta Watershed Alliance, is the regional Watershed Planning and Advisory Council (WPAC) tasked under the provincial Water for Life strategy with completing a State of the Watershed for the South Saskatchewan River Sub-basin and developing an Integrated Watershed Management Plan.

In the spring of 2011 SEAWA released their online State of the Watershed Report to the public, and we are now starting to bring people together to discuss regionally relevant watershed management goals and actions.

An Integrated Watershed Management Plan will be developed cooperatively by stakeholders such as watershed residents, local industry, interest groups and others. The plan states “shared goals” for the region and it outlines actions needed to reach those goals and manage land, water and related resources on a watershed basis.

There are a number of economic, administrative and environmental benefits to developing a watershed management plan including: helping local boards and councils prioritize limited resources; giving community members a voice in protecting and restoring watershed resources that are important to them; providing greater access to resources for project implementation; and targeting activities and programs to areas that need greater protection or to areas where limited resources will be most effective. A plan can also set a baseline for measuring the success of management efforts and reduce the cost of remedial actions by preventing future problems.

There are a number of tasks involved in developing a plan. Land and water related issues in the watershed need to be identified and prioritized, projects or policies must be developed to address the issues, and it must be identified how land and water management programs will be carried out throughout the watershed. As an example, if nutrients in the South Saskatchewan River are identified as an important issue and the watershed management plan for the region sets a goal of reducing nutrients by 15% over the next 10 years, one organization might be responsible for installing fencing along the river in target areas; a municipal council might designate an upstream area as ‘sensitive’ and include protections in a development plan; the province might be tasked with better enforcement of illegal drainage activities and local conservation groups might teach students about watershed health.

A watershed management plan is considered integrated when the planning process is inclusive and broad and combines the needs of diverse watershed stakeholders; when there is recognition of the balance between ecosystem, community and economic health; and when the process respects the integration of activities on the land and their impact on water.

SEAWA is committed to facilitating the development of a truly integrated watershed management plan and will build on and draw from the excellent work already completed in other Alberta Watersheds. To see what the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance is doing with their IWMP, check out their IWMP Discussion Paper and Workbook.

Would YOU like to be involved? PLEASE, let us know! We will be holding public information sessions early in the fall and are looking for people interested in providing their opinions, experience and ideas.

SEAWA encourages you to send us your feedback and comments on the: