Water Protection at Home and Around the World

A river winding through thickets of spruce and pine, a thundering ribbon of water racing through the jungle, a gentle trickle of water over hard blue stones, our waters are the lifeblood of the land. We’ve long known the importance of water, just 3 days without it and our bodies cease to function. This is just one reason why it is of the utmost importance for us to do our part in protecting and safely managing our water resources.

view of wetland area near Lesser Slave lake 2015

The LSWC works with local decision-makers, including municipalities, Indigenous communities, provincial government, and industry leaders to make a notable difference in the quantity and quality of water data in our region through increased monitoring, education, stewardship, and outreach initiatives. Our Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) was created and endorsed by local governments as a tangible plan to improve our regions waters. In the IWMP there were 6 notable issues that have become the focus of our work: Water Quality, Water Quantity, Biodiversity, Riparian Areas & Wetlands, Lake Management and Crown Lands. The IWMP builds on previous resource management in the watershed and is aligned with provincial and municipal initiatives that support watershed planning in the basin, it is just one way in one place that people are taking action.

Across the world people are working to protect our waterways from industrial and other activities. In Canada, the Magpie River was granted legal personhood by local authorities, and given nine rights, including the right to flow, the right to be safe from pollution – and the right to sue. Long cherished by locals, including the Indigenous Innu people of Ekuanitshit, this vital water body is just one of many in a trend of considering the legal rights of nature. In 2017, a court in India ruled that the Ganges and Yamuna rivers should be granted the same legal rights as people. Colombia’s Constitutional Court declared in 2016 that the Atrato River in the country’s northwest was a “subject of rights”. In Ecuador its 2008 constitution recognised the right of nature to exist, maintain and regenerate. Most notably though is the Whanganui River – Aotearoa’s (New Zealand) third-longest river– was recognised as a “legal entity” in 2017 as part of a negotiated settlement between the government and the Maori people. The legal entity, called Te Awa Tupua, “has all the rights, powers, duties and liabilities of a legal person”, the agreement reads. While we here in Northern Alberta are not considering such a move, it is interesting to see different methods to protecting the natural world including taking legislative actions, and embracing both Indigenous and Western scientific ways of knowing. What are some things you can do in your personal life to help maintain, protect, and support our waters?

  1. Support local organizations like the LSWC. Volunteer for events, become a member, or find your own way to support us!
  2. Use and Dispose of Harmful Materials Properly. Don't pour hazardous waste down the drain, on the ground, or into storm sewers.
  3. Limit the use of pesticides or fertilizers, and always follow the label directions.
  4. Properly Maintain Your Septic Systems.
  5. Read, listen, and talk to and about the issues facing our waters and watersheds with your friends, family members, and local leaders.

By: Alyssa Belanger-Haig