June 23rd, 2024

SEAWA to screen film on water shortage for Earth Day

By ANNA SMITH on April 13, 2024.

Members of SEAWA discuss strategy along the banks of Seven Person Creek in this July 2020 file photo.--FILE PHOTO

asmith@medicinehatnews.com

The South East Alberta Watershed Alliance is bringing the ever-pressing issue of drought to the forefront this Earth Day, with a screening of Dried Up, What Now?

The film, produced by Livingstone Landowners Group, Kevin Van Tighem and Yvan Lebel, focuses on declining water levels in southern Alberta, with a focus on some of the local basins, such as South Saskatchewan River Sub-Basin, which is also the home territory of SEAWA, said Tania Millen, stewardship and communications co-ordinator with SEAWA.

“Kevin Van Tighem and Yvan Lebel have presented this in Calgary, and in Pincher Creek, and it’s been sold out,” said Millen. “They’ve been presenting this documentary in several different places, and SEAWA thought that it was really important to bring it to Medicine Hat because the two rivers that make up the South Saskatchewan River are the Oldman River and the Bow River. So what’s happening in the Old Man upstream of us really affects what happens in our southeast Alberta watershed.”

The Oldman Reservoir is only 30 per cent full and levels of creeks that feed it are lower than normal, increasing concern about drought this summer, said Millen. Drought conditions that have now lasted for several years are only being compounded by a warmer winter and lower than normal snowpack.

“Since the South Saskatchewan River relies on water from the Oldman and Bow rivers, what’s happening upstream affects all of us who live downstream in the southeast Alberta watershed,” Dwayne Rogness, SEAWA’s executive director, said in a press release.

These issues inspired SEAWA to invite Van Tighem and the documentary down to the Medicine Hat Public Library theatre, for not only a screening of the film, but also for an open-mic Q&A to help stimulate discussion on potential solutions.

“The film isn’t just about the Oldman, it talks a bit about the larger picture,” said Millen. “About what these water levels mean for not just southern Alberta, but for everyone.”

SEAWA focuses on the South Saskatchewan River Sub-Basin and the Pakowki Lake watershed, and Millen notes this covers a wider area than many expect, including both Seven Persons Creek and the Elkwater Lake, which are both part of the former system. Both of these systems are impacted by ongoing drought conditions.

Van Tighem is a well known conservationist who has written several books, said Millen.

“He is a former superintendent of Banff National Park, and is very well versed in what’s happening in the watershed and what the different options are. So we’re excited to have him come and answer questions,” said Millen.

Tree ring studies have shown that drought is not new to southern Alberta, which has endured previous periods of sustained drought interspersed with long stretches of higher water flow levels, said Millen. However, the demand for water continues to increase, due to factors such as Alberta’s growing population, agricultural demands and current and proposed development and disruption in the sensitive mountain headwaters.

Millen hopes the film, as well as the question period, can turn resident attention toward the possibility of different mitigation factors and solutions to the growing problem in local watersheds.

“It’s not just a southern Alberta problem. It’s a Western Canadian problem, and beyond. All levels of government, I think, are thinking about this, as well as residents and industry. So there’s interest in all parts of society,” said Millen.

The event starts at 7 p.m. on April 22. Tickets are available via Eventbrite for $20.

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