Media releases | February 13, 2013

Recently released water survey obscure and misleadingEDMONTON—The Alberta government’s Water Conversation survey of just 15 questions that was launched this week, fails to give Albertans the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the direction of water policy in the province, say groups working on provincial water issues.“Albertans who have waited for years for promised consultations on the future of water in Alberta are going to be extremely frustrated when they see what the government has come up with,” says Scott Harris, Prairies Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. “Fifteen online questions, many of which bundle a range of policy options into ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ options and are so vague as to be almost meaningless, is hardly the broad and meaningful consultations Albertans deserve.”“This ridiculous survey will only serve to muddy the waters,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “If the government really wants to give Albertans the opportunity to participate in a conversation about water, it has to be clear about what it’s talking about. For example, when it asks if people support ‘making it easier to share water with other users,’ is the government talking about expanding and deregulating a water market? If so, and if they explained the implications of this, I doubt that that this is the direction most Albertans would want to go.”“The Athabasca Chipewyan have been actively campaigning for stronger water policies and regulations for years,” says Eriel Deranger Tar Sands Communication Coordinator, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “In 2010, ACFN published the report ‘As Long as the River Flows’ to highlight the need to adequately identify and address the need for First Nation and Aboriginal base flow and impacts to treaty rights. The new water conversations emerging in the province have done little to address the unique rights of First Nations, and it would appear that governments are sidestepping their fiduciary obligations to uphold treaty and aboriginal rights.”"The news release for the Water Conversation says that First Nations and Métis are being engaged on water issues through separate processes, but if there is a separate process, it hasn’t been made public yet,” says Jesse Cardinal, of the Keepers of the Athabasca. “Both processes are important for the future of water in the province, and the information about both should be readily available to everyone, otherwise the government will miss input from people who are very connected to water, input that could benefit us all. There are serious issues that are not being addressed in this process, including potential groundwater contamination from in situ mining operations and the slow progress the province is making in establishing limits on water extraction during periods of low flow in the river.”“While it is commendable that the Government of Alberta has initiated this conversation it is concerning that the scope of the conversation has been narrowed in a way that will prevent any real discussion of the big-picture issues we face, including the problem of over-allocation of water in much of southern Alberta and the lack of mechanisms to return water to rivers,” says Bill Donahue, Director (Science and Policy) with the Water Matters Society of Alberta. “There also is no acknowledgement of the disconnection between science and water policy and management. We have to stop pretending that we’ve been doing a good job of managing water and achieving the Water For Life Goals, because we haven’t. My fear is that, by not tackling these issues, this conversation is going to distract Albertans from some of the biggest problems we face.”-30-Media contacts:Scott Harris, Council of Canadians
780-233-2528Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Public Interest Alberta
780-993-3736Eriel Deranger, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
780-903-6598Jesse Cardinal, Keepers of the Athabasca
780-404-5315Bill Donahue, Water Matters Society of Alberta