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PRAIRIE WATER SUMMIT PLANS FOR CLIMATE CHALLENGES
By Gillian Ward
Minister Ralph Goodale addressed the Prairie Water Summit at Delta Hotel in Regina with the announcement of $1M funding, for planning to mitigate the increasingly severe effects of climate change, by making more efficient use of what he refers to as "our most precious commodity", water.
WaterToday attended the Summit, with 100 invited specialists and contributors to consider the future of water supply management in Western Canada.
Minister Goodale spoke of public safety and emergency preparedness, addressing the need to complete a water management project that began over 90 years ago in this same place. The South Saskatchewan River Project was governments' response to the severe drought years of the 1930's. The Gardiner Dam has served its purpose well; Lake Diefenbaker has provided fresh water storage and recreation as planned, however, the conduit canals intended to deliver fresh water in four directions were never built.
With more severe storms, floods, droughts and fires in recent years, Minister Goodale says the urgency for addressing water security and supply in the prairie region is more urgent today than it was in the dirty thirties.
Goodale asked the Summit participants to muster up the ambition to do the planning work, considering climate change data, and to act accordingly, with the will to work together, including First Nations, municipalities, and Universities.
The main topic being considered with today's announcement is the linking of Lake Diefenbaker with the Qu'Appelle River system, via surface canals or underground pipeline. This work would complete the vision of the South Saskatchewan Project of the 1930's to secure the supply and quality of water flowing to south east Saskatchewan, including the City of Regina and Moose Jaw.
The urgency of need to plan for water supply management is more dire than the need of the 1930's (Dirty Thirties) that created the Gardiner Dam.
The redirection of water from Lake Diefenbaker is expected to resolve water supply and quality issues for the prairie cities of Regina and Moose Jaw, increasing GDP, creating jobs and allowing for thousands of acres of new irrigation projects.
WaterToday asked Minister Goodale if the Minister of Agriculture and AgriFood Canada would be involved to address improvements in the water infiltration and water holding capacity of the mass surface area of agricultural land, as part of the effort to improve water management. Goodale replied that Agriculture would be involved in the effort to secure the supply and quality of prairie water, and that the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administrations tree farm at Indian Head, now operated by Carry the Kettle First Nation would continue to receive encouragement to ensure that shelterbelt trees are available for planting.
The $1M fund announced today is intended for discussion and planning, including meetings like the Prairie Water Summit, bringing together 100 invited participants to hear from climate change science, engineers and brainstorm solutions toward supply management of prairie water.
Minister Goodale stated that his office, through the disaster relief fund has spent more in support of fire, flood and drought in the past six years than in the previous decades since the fund's inception. Clearly the changing climate conditions demand a response. It is sobering to realize that our state today is truly more dire than the dreaded Dirty Thirties. As Minister Goodale urged, we need to find the will and ambition to take the steps, making the plan and building to plan to deal with climate change, our new normal.
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