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.
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.
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.