U of L Students #SAWC2017

By Jayme Cabrera Lopez, Communications Assistant

In today’s generation, it is admirable to see young citizens getting together for the betterment of our community.  Which brings us again to the Global Citizenship for Oldman Watershed (Previous blog entry).  They have shown engagement and hard work with research and volunteering with the goal to improve the environment one step at a time.  These 6 students also took initiative in signing up for the Southern Alberta Water Charter, for which they were present at the first signing ceremony at Lethbridge City Hall on April 7, 2017.  As part of their commitment to the Charter, they developed a project called “Adopt a River” and here is a little insight into each member’s experience.

 The Global Citizenship for Oldman Watershed (Taylor S., Matthew H., Paris E., Sofia C., Debo A. & Antoine G.)

The Global Citizenship for Oldman Watershed (Taylor S., Matthew H., Paris E., Sofia C., Debo A. & Antoine G.)

The location where this project took was in the Municipal District of Taber Park, 4 kilometers North of the Town of Taber on highway 864 with tests being run on and near the Oldman River.  The six students picked up garbage found on location and ran water tests and a soil test to see the effect the garbage and other toxins had on the environment.  They were looking for a hands on experience that gave them a chance to apply their school knowledge and give them a better insight on their surroundings.

This project was made possible with funding provided by the LPIRG and the Arts and Science Dean's office with the help and guidance of Professor Shelly Wismath.

Sofia Castillo

 Sofia holding up the soil sample collected to test the pH of the soil.

Sofia holding up the soil sample collected to test the pH of the soil.

What does it mean to adopt a river? To me it is simple. Treat the area that you choose to “adopt” as if it was your backyard. As if it was your childhood field. That means taking care of it, so that generations to come can also enjoy the “adopted” area. For us that meant running soil and water tests to see how the our area was doing and also picking up all the garbage. There was a surprising amount of garbage in this area considering there was a campground right next to it; You’d think they’d want the campground to look clean?

Taylor Straga

 Turbidity test to determine the quality of water

Turbidity test to determine the quality of water

To start our project, we started by surveying the land to decide where we should conduct our first set of tests, which would test the quality of the soil.  We ran tests on things such as nitrogen and oxygen in the soil.  After the timers went off, we checked our results; some of the vials failed to produce results, but other vials turned shades of pink and purple, indicating presence of oxygen and nitrogen in the soil.  After finishing up our soil tests, we headed upstream to do our first water test.  This test allowed us to measure the turbidity, temperature, and the dissolved oxygen content of the water.  We headed further downstream for the last set of water tests,  These tests measured the PH, alkalinity, and ions present in the water.  Upon conducting the tests, our results were great.  There was no lead in the water. 

Paris Ellis

 Paris, Taylor and Antoine doing a water test

Paris, Taylor and Antoine doing a water test

The water test was  a good way to see what is in the water we eventually drink.  We did one more water test back by where we did the soil testing.  The two water tests were relatively the same.  Back at the river we did a garage pick up.  It is crazy what kinds of things people throw off the bridge/highway and into the river.  There was sadly a lot of empty alcohol bottles, boxes and cigarette boxes.  However, I am glad we were able to go and make a difference by cleaning up as much as we could see and find.

Matthew Hammer

 Matt getting in on the soil testing.

Matt getting in on the soil testing.

It was also during the clean up that the importance of the Water Charter and the work we were doing really started to hit home. While the overall amount of garbage we picked up was well within the amount I expected, finding things like old TV’s really made me realize how poorly we still treat the environment. It also made me realize how badly things like the Water Charter are needed to protect our watershed. Once we wrapped up our garbage clean up, we only had one last water test to do. As I walked along the bank, I could see extensive erosion along the river bank.  This, along with other signs of damage I saw while picking up garbage made me realize how important it is to treat the river with respect.  

Antoine Gendron

 Antoine shaking his test tube. Potassium soil test

Antoine shaking his test tube. Potassium soil test

This experience gave me a few things to think about.  First, I am thankful to be able to take part in the Southern Alberta Water Charter.  What I like about this initiative is that we are starting to put our words into action.  For me, the power of change lies in the small and everyday action of many people and not always in big, one time projects.  I think that it is important to find a balance between maintaining the health of our environment and moving forward as a society. Southern Alberta Water Charter gave me the opportunity to take a day to appreciate the earth.  This is not something that can always be done with our busy schedules.  Being able to look around and see the grandeur that nature holds is precious.

Debo Adeneye                                                                                                                              

Many do not realize that we take having a healthy watershed for granted. Without it, life as we know it would not be a reality. This experience not only allowed me to pay more attention to the beauty of nature, but also to appreciate it as well. I believe that everyone should take the time to observe the effects of human contact on the environment and the importance of sustaining the resources that we have. At the end of the day we only have one earth, and it remains our responsibility as its inhabitants to ensure that it is well sustained.

Through this project, this group of young students were able to experience a deeper connection and appreciation with their environment, themselves and their community.  They wish to have their community see Alberta the way they did and encourage others take stand and save our land, not just for the people of today, but for the people of tomorrow.

Want to make an impact in our community and take action for the betterment of our environment and bring the community together?  You can also participate in the Southern Alberta Water Charter today, as this group of young citizens have to protect our environment but more importantly, our drinking water.  Find out more here: https://oldmanwatershed.ca/proj/water-charter