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Septic Sense: Keeping Up the Momentum

Posted January 15, 2019 by LSC

Septic systems may not be a great dinner party conversation, however, knowing how to manage and maintain your private sewage system is an important aspect of sustainable rural living. Educating yourself about how to properly care for your septic system preserves your property values and ultimately, ensures harmful substances don’t infiltrate Alberta’s groundwater or waterbodies.

A significant impact

The last Alberta census shows that rural residential landowners represent 14% of Alberta’s population, and many of those rural residents have private septic systems. According to Alberta Municipal Affairs, the average person puts 340 litres of sewage through a private sewage system (septic system) every day. For a family of four living in a two-bedroom house, that amounts to 1,360 litres per day and just under half a million litres per year!

Owners of private sewage systems are responsible for ensuring their systems operate properly and safely. The decisions of those property owners about how to manage and maintain their septic systems have the potential to have a significant cumulative effect on the Alberta landscape. Historically, there have been limited resources and support directed specifically to educating property owners on how to manage these important systems.

A successful start

In response to this need, since 2015, Land Stewardship Centre, in cooperation with the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association, has been delivering the Septic Sense program. The Septic Sense workshop is a comprehensive information session, supported with take-home resources, that enhances local accountability for water resource management through education and engagement with landowners who have private wastewater systems on their property.

“Public education is an important component of a successful wastewater industry, and we are pleased to be a part of the process,” says Lesley Desjardins, Executive Director at AOWMA.

The highly successful workshop series has been offered in over 40 different municipalities across Alberta, reaching almost 2,000 people and has helped to raise awareness of responsible stewardship practices to realtors and landowners, alike.

Jeff Porter, Agricultural Fieldman with MD of Foothills has said there has been a lot of interest in the workshops from residents, because septic systems remain a mystery to many people who live on farms and acreages.

With funding and support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, in 2018, LSC and AWOMA hosted 30 free workshops for landowners and Realtors in Alberta to better understand how to manage their rural property and mitigate negative impacts on the landscape from improperly managed septic systems. This support from AREF was crucial to delivering the workshops this year. LSC and AOWMA are very grateful to AREF for their support, and for seeing value in this educational initiative which has provided important information and resources to rural landowners, Realtors and municipalities across Alberta.

Looking forward

Now, with a couple of years of successful workshops complete, and a positive reputation in the community, Septic Sense has evolved and will now be offered on a cost-recovery (fee-for service) basis that will allow AOWMA to sustain the program in the future.

Going forward, AOWMA will continue raising awareness of best management practices to many more Realtors and Albertans, to create sustainable communities and foster a healthy environment. Please contact AOWMA directly if your organization or municipality is interested in hosting a Septic Sense workshop.

For more details about hosting and to schedule a workshop in your area please contact Sherri Hallett at the AWOMA office at sherri@aowma.com or 780–489–7471.

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