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The Ontario Clean Water Act and its regulations were proclaimed in force yesterday- see EBR listing: http://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTAwMTI4&statusId=MTUwNzMy

Meanwhile, a recent Alberta case illustrates the explosive intersection between aboriginal rights, development pressures and water shortages, one of the many conflicts that will be exacerbated by climate changes. This long-running and hard-fought case ended with a stunning setback for the Town of Strathmore and for Alberta Environment.

The Town of Strathmore obtained approval from Alberta Environment to pipe its treated waste water to the Bow River. Strathmore’s existing wastewater lagoons were full, without sufficient capacity for the town’s current and anticipated growth. Unfortunately, the pipe was built just upstream of the Siksika First Nation. The Siksika strongly opposed the pipeline, fearing that it would adversely affect water quality in the Bow River.

According to the Alberta Environmental Appeal Board, existing impacts on the Bow River make it too sensitive to accept treated municipal waste water. Alberta Environment had put the most stringent conditions on the Strathmore discharge that are likely achievable with current technology, but this was not good enough to protect the river. Because of the Town’s emergency, with its lagoons almost ready to overflow, the Board did allow a one-time discharge during this spring flood, provided that bottled water was provided to the Siksika. However, the Board entirely rejected the pipe as a long-term solution. Instead, the Town must develop a new wastewater master plan based on wastewater irrigation and perhaps a constructed wetland. In addition, the Town must do far more to reduce the quantities and improve the quality of its wastewater, by reducing infiltration and water consumption. Alberta’s Minister of the Environment wasted no time by issuing an Order on May 18, 2007, requiring (among other things) that the Town immediately implement the irrigation program, provide written notice concerning the implementation to Siksika elders, and prepare an interim operational plan that will minimize discharge into the Bow River.

This is not the first time that water constraints have seriously affected development opportunities in the red hot Alberta economy, and it will certainly not be the last.

The AEB report & recommendations, as well as the Ministerial Order were posted on May 18, 2007 at http://www.eab.gov.ab.ca/news.htm

See also the overview by the Bow Riverkeeper at http://www.bowriverkeeper.org/node/137 (the AEB decision was April 18, not May 18 as they indicate)..

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