The Bog is where thoughts, opinions, discussion pieces, and action converge. Influential thinkers from the water community are invited to share their insights on current or controversial water topics. Please note that the views expressed herein are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Alberta WaterPortal.
Teaching the value of water, food and energy, Inside Education’s Cultivate 2020: Youth Agriculture Leadership Summit Features the Nexus
By Kathryn Wagner of Inside Education and Brie Nelson of the Alberta WaterPortal Society
The Alberta WaterPortal Society and Inside Education have a shared goal of helping Alberta teachers and students understand the interconnectedness of our water, food and energy systems: The nexus! Connections arise because these systems are reliant not only on each other, but also on the same limited resources. Our systems of producing energy require water; water pumping and treatment requires energy; agricultural production and the whole supply chain requires both water and energy; and our human communities need all of these systems, and the ecosystems that support them, in order to thrive. Recognizing the interconnections of these systems leads to opportunities and innovative problem-solving! (learn more here).
Inside Education has been introducing nexus content into junior and senior high school classrooms through interactive presentations and other resources for years. This past March , high schools from across Alberta had the opportunity to participate in a unique event that showcased a deep dive into agriculture, the nexus, and innovation built on interconnection during Cultivate 2020: Youth Agriculture Leadership Summit, March 5-8, 2020.
Over the course of four days, students and teachers were introduced to the complexity and innovation that is part of the agriculture sector in Alberta. With the goal of inspiring critical thinking, experiential learning and active stewardship, the summit allowed students to explore many significant topics. Multiple perspectives were introduced with a focus on feeding a growing population and increasing the resilience of our land and water resources.
The Alberta WaterPortal Society was prominently featured during the Cultivate 2020 summit; Dr. Kim Sturgess participated as a panelist on the Food-Energy-Water Panel and Brie Nelson shared expertise and resources from the Alberta WaterPortal Society during roundtable discussions. Acting as “Idea Cultivators,” they contributed valuable perspectives that helped structure students’ understanding and shape school based action projects. Youth summits provide a rare opportunity for program partners, experts, teachers and students to forge lasting connections through sharing ideas, expertise
The student teams who kicked off their action projects at Cultivate 2020 have now been challenged in a completely different why by the physical limitations caused by COVID-19 health measures. The groups of students have needed to innovate, adapt and shift their learning and collaborating on this work to online.
The impact of collaboration around a school project or a youth summit is long-lasting and the Alberta WaterPortal Society and Inside Education look forward to ongoing projects in order to teach, share and learn together! One of these projects is the Alberta Water Nexus Project, which the Alberta WaterPortal Society is completing currently with the support of Inside Education. This project is producing videos, online tools and educational resources for teachers and students to explore the water, food and energy nexus. These new resources will be published this summer and introduced to teachers and classrooms this fall.
You can watch a short video about the water, food and energy nexus here, or explore the different sectors and the interactions between them in more detail on these pages for food, energy and communities.
“This event has inspired my students to incite change in our school, seeing that many young leaders have already made a huge impact on their own communities.” Tamara Morales Chavez | Teacher WP Wagner High School, Edmonton
“The Cultivate experience informed us and gave us more confidence in tackling our project. Collaboration and connections are a big part of success, and this opportunity presented both. We had a fantastic time!” -Justin Grainger | Teacher Bill Woodward School, Anza
“This opportunity has really pushed this once dormant project into action. I feel like we can actually do this and have a positive impact.” - Chloe | Student Robert Thirsk High School, Calgary
High schools that attended
- Altario School | Altario
- Bill Woodward School | Anzac
- Brooks Composite High School | Brooks
- École Voyageur School | Cold Lake
- J.T. Foster School | Nanton
- Jack James High School | Calgary
- Lacombe Composite High School | Lacombe
- Matthew Halton High School | Pincher Creek
- Mistassiniy School | Wabasca
- Morinville Community High School | Morinville
- New Myrnam School | Myrnam
- Queen Elizabeth High School | Calgary
- Queen Elizabeth School | Edmonton
#OurWaterWorkers in COVID-19: On the frontlines, behind the scenes
By Alixx Hettinga, the Communications Coordinator for the Alberta WaterPortal
No aspect of life appears unaffected by the reach of COVID-19. The pandemic has hijacked our work, our resources and even our conversations. Hospital staff, grocers, cleaners and first responders are hailed as the world’s courageous frontline workers, but one vital group has been overlooked in this celebration.
Global Water Intelligence (GWI) has created the #OurWaterWorkers campaign to thank those in the water sector who have risked their own health and safety to protect ours. Behind the scenes of the frontlines, our water workers around the globe have been working tirelessly to supply citizens with treated water, research ways to track COVID-19 through wastewater and keep the public informed on threats and opportunities regarding water issues.
WaterPortal and Waterlution: Exciting New Partnership!
This spring, the Alberta WaterPortal Society partnered with Canadian non-profit, Waterlution to support the development and facilitation of the Water Innovation Lab (WIL) happening in Alberta this fall (October 5-11).
The WaterPortal is very excited about becoming Waterlution’s strategic partner on this project because WIL is an incredible program that puts the Portal’s mission, of improved water management through increased education and awareness, into action. WIL advances this goal by bringing together the brightest and most passionate water leaders to create innovative ideas and projects that address regional water challenges.
Kim Sturgess, founder and Executive Director of the WaterPortal, said of the partnership “WIL provides the perfect framework for knowledge incubation, transfer, and innovation. The WaterPortal will ensure that ground-breaking ideas and projects generated at WIL will have home post-WIL, so that they translate into long-term, meaningful change in Alberta’s waterscape”.
Karen Kun, president and co-founder of Waterlution, echoed these sentiments saying that “the Alberta WaterPortal Society is an incredible tool to seamlessly continue and advance the work done at WIL”.
Promoting source water protection against wildfires in Alberta
By François-Nicolas Robinne of Global Water Futures
North America is perpetually burning, or so it seems! California is experiencing year-long fire seasons, the last two years have been the worst fire seasons on record in British Columbia, and the town of High Level in northern Alberta was evacuated late-May to the out-of-control Chuckegg Creek wildfire. With the hot and dry conditions we have already experienced this spring, it may be a harbinger of another rough summer.
In a context of the climate crisis in which wildfires in Canada will likely happen more often, get bigger and be more severe, learning to live with wildfires also means learning to live with their consequences. This includes fatalities, billions of dollars’ worth of damage, as well as possible impairment of our water supplies, which is growing topic of concern for many communities. In particular, water contaminated by excess nutrients, sediments, and heavy metals transported from burned areas can degrade water treatability and pose serious challenges to downstream drinking water utilities [1,2].
After a severe wildfire, forested watersheds often display altered hydrologic functioning leading to higher runoff and erosion. For example, the speed at which water seeps into the ground versus flowing on the surface into creeks may change. The result is water quality impairments  which are of particular concern when those watersheds are sources of drinking-water for downstream communities. This is because drinking-water treatment utilities might not be fully prepared to deal with sudden post-fire water quality changes. Assessing the exposure of these utilities to wildfire-caused alteration of their source water is therefore a first logical step towards mitigating the effects of wildfire, as is the creation of a source water protection strategy.
Why we plan around watersheds
by Jeff Wiehler from the Land Use Planning Hub
A land use plan is a blueprint for the future. It sets out goals for a specific region and then identify what activities, uses or development best fit in the goals. There are two key parts of land use planning:
- What area or region will be covered by the plan
- The goals and uses applicable to that region
The challenges of land use planning typically fall to the second aspect: what set of regulations best reflect the environmental, social and economic goals of a region? How can competing uses or values be considered? These questions are the essence of the difficulty of land use planning, so they tend to be the priority when creating and following land use plans.