It’s true, there is water everywhere and in the Bow Valley we’re lucky to have it in abundance.
But, as recent events have shown, water does need proper care and attention.
It’s hard to say yet what damage may occur in Goat Creek and the Spray and Bow Rivers due to TransAlta’s ongoing flushing with excess water after mechanical system failure at the Spray hydro plant.
And now the Cascade River will also be altered at the hands of man as TransAlta will stop flows to deal, again, with mechanical repairs at its Banff National Park hyrdo plant. Due to planned halting of the river’s flow, fish will need to be electro-fished and removed for their own safety. Successful re-introduction will be necessary – hopefully successful.
Hard to believe that, like caribou wiped out in Banff National Park, native fish species could be in jeopardy. For those unfamiliar, caribou numbers were left to dwindle (as studies of what to do about it were carried out) to the point that a tiny remaining herd was wiped out in an avalance near Lake Louise in 2009.
Loss of caribou, possible damage to fish stocks – hardly banner events for Canada’s oldest and arguably greatest national park.
And, being that the Bow winds its way through a good portion of southern Alberta, negative effects on its water locally have been, and will continue to be, felt downstream. Recreational anglers and commercial guides, who are already feeling the monetary pinch of a lost season on the Bow, may best be witness to how the river responds in future.
Outside the park, there are also issues.
Already, the beautiful Kananaskis River is well known as a poor one for fish/angling due to constantly fluctuating water levels related to damming.
Further south, the Milk River had been under a no-swimming order until it was listed Aug. 19, including at the popular Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park where swimming is just one of many features enjoyed by campers.
As its waters are drawn down by irrigation, the Milk, which winds through ranching country, suffered the effects of fecal bacteria, making swimming a health issue.
There is a moratorium on the issuance of new water licences on the Bow, as its waters are already spoken for. No wonder. How much more can be removed if its quality is threatened?
Likely only when we are forced to pay for water what it’s worth, as the basis for life on our planet, will water be given its proper due.
Fortunately, not all is doom and gloom. In Kananaskis Country, another area of beautiful, pristine creeks and rivers, $40 million is being put into new water and wastewater facilities. Being that the present system does not meet provincial requirements for fighting a forest fire, despite it being provincially-owned, upgrades are clearly overdue.
Being that water from Kananaskis Village is discharged into the Kananaskis River, care must be taken to ensure its quality.
In the end, water is life – look at what is happening in Somalia when there isn’t enough. Closer to home, those in Banff in 2006 when the drinking water system was subject to a boil water advisory became intimately familiar with the problems associated with shortages for just a few short days.
What needs to kept in mind is that there is no new water. All we can do is look after what we have as best we can.