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Blueprint Alberta: H20



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Our Water

Alberta holds only 2.2 per cent of Canada�s fresh water, and the entire province is thirsty.

A booming oil patch, parched farmers� fields, and a growing number of homes and businesses — everyone wants a sip.

At the same time, Alberta�s mountains have seen less snowfall over the last two decades and glaciers are shrinking. Both feed the rivers that are Alberta�s main source of water for drinking and irrigation.

Last year, former premier Peter Lougheed called on Albertans to treasure water.

�I believe that water is more important than oil,� he said.

Warming up to the problem

Global warming will hasten the melting of Alberta�s glaciers, said Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a water research group based in California.

�Alberta is dependent in the summer months on some of that glacial runoff to provide that base flow, and that is going to disappear over time,� he said.

�Couple that with very rapid population growth that is going on up here, the industrial development, and the tarsand developments that I think are potentially problematic from a water consumption point of view, and you have as many water challenges as the rest of us.�

Tapped resource

Water experts aren�t alone in sounding the alarm.

A provincial report called Water for Life released in 2003 notes that some watersheds have already reached the limit of available water. The remaining ones will also be tapped out as Alberta�s population and economy grow.

�Fluctuating and unpredictable water supply in recent years has stressed the need to make some major shifts in how we use and allocate this renewable, but finite, resource,� according to the report.

Robert Sandford, chair of the United Nations water initiative in Canada, said it�s time for Alberta to treat water differently, or face the consequences.

�Water scarcity could limit social, economic and environmental development in the province in the near future. Choices that we make now can avoid unnecessary pain and difficulty.�


NEXT » What's in the pipes?

Related Media

Erin Collins gives an extensive overview of the water situation in Alberta. (runs 7:03)

Jim Brown talks with Preston Manning about his suggestions on how to reduce water use in Alberta. (runs 7:00)

Mike Vernon tells us about glaciers and why scientists are worried about their decline. (runs 4:05)

Grant Gelinas asks the question... is our province in danger of running dry? (runs 4:27)

Related News
Kootenay glaciers shrinking at 'huge' rate, researcher warns


The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 1

The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 2

The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 3


Alberta has more than 500,000 hectares of irrigated land.

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