EMERGING ISSUES FACING THE SOUTH SASKATCHEWAN RIVER WATERSHED
SASKATOON, SK February 20th, 2015. The South Saskatchewan River is a 716 km ribbon of blue that flows through Saskatchewan from the Alberta border, near Leader, through Lake Diefenbaker and the City of Saskatoon, to where it meets the North Saskatchewan River just east of Prince Albert. The South Saskatchewan River watershed covers approximately 35,000 km2 and is home to nearly one-third of Saskatchewan’s population.
The South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards (SSRWSI) is hosting three open houses for urban and rural municipal leaders, stakeholders and the general public across the watershed. On February 25th, the open house will be held in Osler, in the north part of the watershed; followed by Abbey on February 26th in the west area; and in the central area of the watershed on March 5th in Beechy. These open houses are designed to engage the local communities and municipalities on emerging and pressing issues facing the watershed.
The SSRWSI open houses will have presentations from Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Water Security Agency, the South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards and local community leaders discussing various initiatives and issues facing the watershed in each area. In Osler, Alfred Gamble with the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation will discuss an initiative between the First Nation and the neighbouring Rural Municipality of Duck Lake to develop a community-based source water protection plan for the area. Alfred Gamble says “In 2014, we had 50 wells and cisterns on the First Nation which were contaminated, requiring the First Nation to haul potable water to these homes. This issue not only impacts the health and livelihood of the directly affected families but has consequences to education, youth outreach and other community programs on the First Nation. Funds have to be diverted from our various programs to deal with the flooding and water contamination issues”. The last 7 years of high precipitation have had a major impact to the Rural Municipality of Duck Lake, resulting in over $150,000 spent during the last two years to repair damaged roads. Several thousand acres of cropland, that have been flooded in the Rural Municipality, are unable to be seeded by local farmers. On the other hand, at the Beechy open house, Coy Shellenberg with Perrin Ranching 1999 Ltd. will be discussing the benefits of cross-fencing on his ranch to manage native prairie and other environmental goods and services that have resulted in the project.
“Each area of the watershed faces different issues, but do have commonalities as well”, says Renny Grilz, Watershed Coordinator with the South Saskatchewan River Watershed. “Invasive plant species and the threat of aquatic invasive mussels may at first impact one area of the watershed, but through time can have a significant impact throughout the watershed”, says Grilz. “If we have a Spotted Knapweed infestation west of Lake Diefenbaker along the South Saskatchewan River, we know that eventually it will arrive downstream and will impact places like the City of Saskatoon, resulting in increased management costs to the taxpayer and the landowner, compared to managing the issue at its source”.
In 2007, the Government of Saskatchewan released the Source Water Protection Plan for the South Saskatchewan River. As a result of this plan, the South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards was formed to implement this plan and address emerging issues within the South Saskatchewan River watershed. The membership of the South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards includes cities, towns, villages, rural municipalities, First Nations and special interest groups that are located across the entire watershed.