Every year, applicants continue to inspire with their dedication to on the ground activities that enhance, protect and restore Alberta’s precious water resources. It is rewarding to see the reach and diversification of stewardship activities supported by this grant program from year to year. Now it’s time to meet the groups that received 2022 WSG funding and learn how they will put these important dollars to work in communities across Alberta.
We gratefully acknowledge Alberta Environment and Parks as the core funder of the WSG and thank them for continuing to invest in community stewardship initiatives like these.
Alberta Lake Management Society
The Alberta Lake Management Society (ALMS) builds awareness of responsible aquatic ecosystems management so all Albertans can enjoy the benefits of healthy lake and aquatic environments. ALMS’ project, The Lake Watershed Stewardship Community of Practice, will inform, connect, coordinate and reinvigorate lake watershed stewards from across the province. Over the course of the year, the community of practice will host meetings highlighting the work of watershed stewards, bringing together Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs), Watershed Stewardship Groups (WSGs), individual stewards and partner organizations for meetings to discuss citizen science, funding opportunities, member engagement and other relevant topics. Between meetings, stewards will connect with each other via a Facebook group to encourage dialogue and information sharing. This project creates a forum for the improvement of watershed literacy and stewardship education through presentations and discussions on lake watershed topics.
Bigstone Cree Nation
Bigstone Cree Nation is developing a long-term water monitoring project to understand the impacts of development on water systems. The Nation will collect samples for ongoing quality monitoring, which will be prepared for sequencing and toxicology analysis at Athabasca University and the University of Calgary. This data will determine the biodiversity of the water to measure the environmental impact of development. Plant and animal health, as well as food security for the Nation, is intimately connected to water quality. Bigstone relies on clean water and healthy food sources, which are threatened by continuing development and climate change impacts. Incorporating traditional knowledge to inform data and develop strategies for preserving and protecting the local environment, this project will empower the community to protect their water sources through environmental management and advocacy.
County of Barrhead
The Riparian Education Program (Pond Days), hosted by the County of Barrhead, promotes responsible use and protection of natural resources by educating youth on riparian and aquatic ecosystems. Pond Days hosts a field trip at a Barrhead County lake to teach students about the importance of a healthy ecosystem and inform them about safe and responsible ways to enjoy nature. The event will include different local organizations to engage and educate the students on a range of topics including lake wildlife, aquatic invertebrates, water quality and boat and swimming safety. The goal of Pond Days is to provide students with a fun, educational experience that equips them to make responsible decisions about participating in outdoor activities.
Fish Creek Watershed Association
The headwaters of Fish Creek rise in the Kananaskis Improvement District (KID), in the McLean Creek Public Land Use Zone. This area is heavily used for recreation, particularly the use of off-highway vehicles. Forestry, harvesting and livestock grazing all happen on this land. Downstream of the KID is a mix of agricultural lands and country-residential developments, the Priddis Greens Golf Course and the community of Priddis. The Fish Creek Watershed Association (FCWA) works to preserve excellent quality and quantity of water to ensure human and agricultural needs, healthy riparian areas and fish habitat. Through this project, the FCWA will implement a comprehensive water monitoring program across the watershed and measure streamflow at Priddis Creek. The program aims to establish baseline water quality conditions, determine if water quality is meeting provincial guidelines for protection of aquatic life and inform future land use planning, management and stewardship activities.
Ghost Watershed Alliance Society
The Ghost Watershed Alliance Society (GWAS) project builds on the water monitoring work of the last two years, leveraging a partnership with CreekWatch to involve local residents in hands-on water quality monitoring. GWAS will help plan a Recreational Stewardship Fair event, led by Cows and Fish, at the Ghost Public Land-use Zone. The event will engage recreational users in meaningful conversations on why our actions in the watershed matter and to encourage stewardship, continue the popular Walks in the Watershed program and conduct clean ups on camping and shooting grounds.
Green Calgary’s Summer Sustainability Series equips Calgarians with the knowledge and tools to save water in their homes, reduce stormwater runoff and increase drought resilience on their property. The series will help homeowners balance the desire to have a flourishing yard with caring for the environment. Though many Calgarians use rain barrels, many people don’t understand the connection between rain harvesting and watershed protection. The series bridges that knowledge gap through rain barrel sales and education. The series also teaches Calgarians how to create a yard that requires less water, where runoff from yards ends up and why it is important to reduce water consumption for a healthy watershed. Specifically designed for new homeowners and new Canadians, the program offers water education at no cost for all Calgarians. The series empowers Calgarians to practice water conservation methods to save money and help maintain the health of the local watershed. Through this program, Green Calgary will reach more Calgarians in various stages of their environmental journey and help them understand the need to care for the Bow River watershed. The Summer Sustainability Series helps citizens see the holistic nature of water use.
Inside Education Society
The Water and Agriculture Education project supports teachers and encourages students to learn more about careers in agriculture. Through teacher professional development programming, designed for high school career counsellors and educators to investigate careers in Alberta’s agriculture sector, students are inspired to pursue careers in this vital sector. Inside Education will also launch a new student water education program in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). Students from Calgary and surrounding areas will participate in a hands-on, interactive field trip from a new NCC site at Three Point Creek. Their team of educators will also bring engaging water and agriculture presentations to students across Alberta. These programs educate students about environmental sustainability, water use and conservation and agriculture in Alberta. To further educational opportunities for students, Inside Education is hosting two youth leadership programs: the Cultivate Youth Agriculture Leadership program and the Navigate Youth Water Leadership program. These multi-day learning experiences will see high school students from the Calgary region meet with experts from across the spectrum of agriculture and water science, technology, innovations and futures. This project provides students and teachers real-world connections to their watersheds and promotes education and stewardship.
Mayatan Lake Management Association
The Association’s project builds on the previous year’s community-based water quality survey program for 44 area lakes by conducting a water quality assessment and initiating the collection of bathymetric data. Twenty-one named lakes and 23 unnamed lakes were sampled in 2021, many for the first time. The small lakes of the Carvel Pitted Delta collectively form a significant regional water resource that has never been systematically investigated or managed. The Carvel Pitted Delta is a key groundwater recharge zone and as such plays a significant role in the hydrology of Parkland County. Little is known about the overall interaction between these local lakes and groundwater, which in turn poses a challenge for water management. Aquatic invasive species concerns are being evaluated in lakes elsewhere in Alberta, but this issue has not been addressed systematically in lakes of the Carvel Pitted Delta. This project supports the collection of bathymetric data (the measurement of the depth of water in oceans, rivers, or lakes) for several lakes to support water management efforts.
Moose Lake Watershed Society
The Moose Lake Watershed Society (MLWS) first created and published the Moose Lake Handbook in 2015. However, the handbook requires updates to reflect the changing nature of the watershed. The updated handbook will include information on new invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels, and education on the Keep Our Lake Blue campaign. Also included in the handbook is a history of Moose Lake, information about the watershed, bathymetric map, land use map, how to support the watershed and information on local wildlife, aviary, plants, fish sensitive areas and invasive species. MLWS will involve the community through citizen science monitoring to increase watershed literacy. Projects such as the handbook build the connection of people with the watershed, interlinking community, history and recreation. This handbook will inform, educate, increase awareness and build capacity with residents to improve riparian area management and stewardship to build a healthier ecosystem.
Nose Creek Watershed Partnership
The Nose Creek Watershed Partnership (NCWP) works to protect riparian areas and manage streamflows in the Nose Creek watershed. Their work focuses on mitigating impacts of flood and drought, and improving water quality for water users and aquatic life. Collaborating with partners, NCWP will develop a watershed-scale model to predict future impacts to resources from changing land use and support multi-jurisdictional land use management. The model will help stakeholders evaluate potential tools and strategies to maintain riparian health and water quality in the future. Supporting protection and restoration of streamflows, water quality, riparian areas and wetlands in the watershed, the model is a vital tool in land preservation. Designed for use by municipalities, other resource managers and industry to better understand current watershed conditions, the model will help predict future conditions based on growth in the region. This project is an investment in the longer-term strategy to better manage streamflows, retain wetlands and intermittent watercourses, and improve water quality in the Nose Creek watershed.
Pigeon Lake Watershed Association
The Caring for the Lake Together Project will deliver a series of events to re-engage the Pigeon Lake community on the stewardship and community action goals of the Pigeon Lake Watershed Management Plan. This year marks the 10th anniversary of community collaboration to establish the plan. Working with municipal council members, the Maskwacis Cree Four Nations, business owners and residents, PLWA will host six lakeside Pigeon Lake Trivia Challenge events. These events offer an opportunity for PLWA staff to connect with new residents and educate and empower the public to care for Pigeon Lake and its watershed. The events will encourage landowners to adopt proactive lake-friendly environmental management practices, landscaping and activities.
Round Hill Renaissance Agricultural Foundation
The Round Hill Renaissance Agricultural Foundation has leased a parcel of land in Round Hill to build a food forest, community garden and agricultural learning centre. The project, now in its second year, focuses on building community and embracing culture around food and agriculture in Round Hill. Their first year started with basic infrastructure and preliminary planting. This year, they will plan the space, establish a system for water capture, develop the shelterbelt and lay out the pathways and planting areas for the food forest. The food forest celebrates and features Indigenous traditions of food and healing. Developed with permaculture principles, using natural water capture and a multi-layer system of edible plants, the forest will address food insecurity in the Round Hill area and promote agricultural education.
Society of Grasslands Naturalists
The Society of Grasslands Naturalists continues last year’s Hidden Neighbours Biodiversity of Riparian Areas project. This project hosts two hour-long walks with local experts, identifying invasive plant species and discussing their environmental impacts and how to get rid of them in residential areas. The walk also includes education on alternative native plants that residents can use in their gardens. A second event will be held in Police Point Park, with four two-hour long workshops covering invasive species in and around Medicine Hat. Each of these workshops will be led by local experts from Grassland Naturalists, The Albert Invasive Species Council, and The City of Medicine Hat Parks and Recreation. Taking participants on an educational walk, they will identify invasive and native plants in the park, discuss invasive animal species on the land and in the water, and learn about the effects invasive plants have on the riparian area. By identifying, reporting and removing invasive plant species, the public can help reduce their spread and protect the under-appreciated riparian areas.
The trout populations found in the Waiparous Creek watershed have suffered significant declines along Alberta’s eastern slopes region. These trout populations serve as indicators of healthy watersheds and their decline is concerning. The creeks these trout inhabit are intersected by a road with stream crossings consisting of several hanging culverts that have likely been a barrier to upstream migration for trout for decades. The goal of this project is to replace the hanging culverts with single, properly sized open-bottom arch culverts to re-establish the free flow of water, sediment and fish. These arches will allow for the unimpeded access of fish and wildlife to upstream reaches of the tributaries and facilitate the restoration of natural stream processes. This will also reduce sources of chronic sedimentation, improving the water quality and suitability for native species and downstream water users. In addition, Trout Unlimited will support bioengineering and native vegetation planting around the culverts to restore degraded habitat and strengthen streambanks. The culvert replacements will reconnect four kilometres of fish habitat, reduce habitat fragmentation and restore habitat for Alberta’s declining native trout populations.
Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association
The Waterton Biosphere Reserve Association’s (WBRA) Stewarding Trumpeter Swans Through the Seasons project will address wetland habitat conservation using the trumpeter swan to engage community members in stewardship. The last North American Trumpeter Swan Survey showed that the subpopulation in southwestern Alberta was not experiencing the same rebound as populations in other parts of North America. The WBRA will support conservation of trumpeter swans and associated wetlands through swan occupancy surveys, data collection, education, outreach and habitat stewardship practices. By engaging birding volunteers and landowners directly in the surveys, this project will help residents form a personal connection to the species and become more observant about swan habitat needs and the impacts of changes in wetland habitat. By promoting the importance of wetland habitats by integrating the swan’s iconic appeal, the WBRA will work with the community to care for the wetlands, which the species rely on for migratory stopover sites. Adoption of habitat stewardship practices on wetlands used by swans will also benefit many other species and enhance water quality and quantity.
Weaselhead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society
The Society’s project is a part of a seven-year study examining environmental data during pre-disturbance, construction and operational phases of the South West Calgary Ring Road (SWCRR) highway bordering the Weaselhead Natural Area. This project will determine the impacts of the new infrastructure and effectiveness of mitigation measures. Now in its final year, the study will collect and report on data to help assess the impact of this type of infrastructure on natural areas and wetlands, inform discussion around similar projects in the future and advise changes to current mitigation standards. This will be the second year of data collected with salts and deicers being used on the road. Data will help establish whether fencing impacts wildlife corridor use, if re-vegetation improves erosion and sediment control and if salts and deicers used on the highway impact water quality in adjacent wetlands. In the short-term, the study will allow timely action to be taken to correct or improve mitigation that is failing. In the long-term, the study will improve understanding of the environmental impacts of such projects and the effectiveness of common mitigation measures.
Wizard Lake Watershed and Lake Stewardship Association
The goal of the Wizard Lake Watershed and Lake Stewardship Association’s (WLWLSA) project is to share tributary data and recommendations with stakeholders and stewards, as a follow up to the 2021 Phase I consultant’s report by Associated Environmental Consultants. The project includes two community engagement workshops to share the data. The first will provide watershed residents the Data Summary Report from Associated Environmental Consultants, which includes an overview with recommendations from the tributary water sampling program. The second workshop will combine the WLWLSA tributary sampling program with the Alberta Lake Management Society In-lake 2022 Sampling Program data. This offers a complete report of the 2022 Wizard Lake Sampling Program with consultant’s recommendations for a 2023 workplan and beyond.