Healthy Headwaters Essential for Water Conservation — the effect of logging, dams & ATVs

If you plan on attending one of the upcoming Public Consultations on the draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan you might want to read this well thought-out article by Kevin Van Tighem in the July/August 2013 of Alberta Views, Safeguarding the Source – how Alberta can heal its headwaters–before we run dry.

Cataract Creek

Cataract Creek

Kevin argues that logging, if done effectively can help water conservation in the long term, while conservationists are calling for more areas to be protected from such activity. How can the plan address these conflicting opinions? On the other hand Kevin says: “Out-of-control ORV use shred watersheds all through Alberta’s headwaters”. He goes on to say: “…the potential for watershed restoration by closing ORV trails is enormous.” While this will never happen, we should insist on better management of these designated areas by ESRD.

What are your thoughts on the views expressed in this informative article?

4 comments… add one
  • Derek Ryder Nov 8, 2013, 1:13 am

    On the matter of OHV damage, I had a few interesting conversations with OHV folks at an SSRP session. They are aware of the watershed damage, and don’t like it either. They blame it on (1) too many OHV users in too small a space; growth of OHV areas hasn’t matched the pace of growth in OHV users; (2) an unpleasant minority of under-educated OHV users who “mud bog” inappropriately — that they, too, struggle to figure out appropriate enforcement for; (3) a failure of the designated trail systems to provide adequate amounts of different trail types (single track in the Ghost was mentioned repeatedly) — leading to people making their own; (4) a lack of process of any kind to add to/modify the sanctioned trail system.

    They were intrigued by the KTAG/KTC collaborative model of trail planning (warts and all). They did not feel they have any avenues to influence OHV trail location or design even within the designated areas. They believe that, like the KTAG model, that OHV community would volunteer to design, build, close and restore trails if given a chance.

    Maybe there’s hope…

  • Derek Ryder Nov 8, 2013, 1:02 am

    Not necessarily. As a glider pilot, I am all too familiar with summer thunderstorms that visibly take water out of the mountain regions and dump it heavily on the prairie nearby (lessing the need to artificially take water out of the rivers and dump them on the prairie via irrigation). Just because water goes into the air doesn’t mean it’s lost to the South Saskatchewan drainage basin. Clearly some of it is, but not all. I’m not aware of any studies that suggest how much leaves the SS River basin system never to return.

  • Alf Skrastins Nov 3, 2013, 11:02 pm

    The point is that the water that evaporates before entering the surface water/ground water system is effectively gone from our local river systems. It will fall to the ground somewhere else, but that won’t be of any help for us in the South Saskatchewan River System.

  • Derek Ryder Nov 3, 2013, 7:24 pm

    A very intriguing read. I have always thought the concept of sacrificing areas to OHV destruction unpleasant but necessary; perhaps greater restrictions are required.

    The only issue I see with the general argument is that water that evaporates is somehow “lost”. As we all learned in Grade 3, the water cycle is closed and finite. Water that evaporates/sublimates from snow on trees condenses and falls as rain somewhere (I haven’t heard climate data that suggests planetary humidity is increasing). Water that falls as rain absorbs into the soil (lessening the need for irrigation) or runs into the rivers downstream. The same is true with water that evaporates from reservoirs, lakes, irrigation canals and even the rivers themselves.

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