The Headwaters Action Plan 2013-14 is the community’s plan to maintain and protect the integrity of the Oldman headwaters and source waters.
In 2012-13 the OWC began work on the second action plan of the Oldman Integrated Watershed Management Plan process addressing IWMP planning Goal 3: Manage and protect the integrity of headwaters and source waters.
Why address this goal first?
Four great reasons:
- The headwaters region is a priority because it is the main source of water for the greater Oldman watershed. The headwaters area is approximately 25 kilometres wide, encompasses 24% of the total area of the Oldman watershed, and accounts for about 90% of the flow at the mouth (end) of the Oldman River.
- The Headwaters area is a growing ‘hotspot’ of land-use concerns and cumulative effects on watershed integrity.
- The Headwaters is in need of an informed watershed constituency willing to implement stewardship action to meet the greater community’s defined targets for headwaters health, and provides recommendations for policy development to maintain and protect source waters and headwaters in the Oldman watershed.
- The OWC recognized the importance of providing strong, credible science, community and stakeholder input to support the maintenance and protection of Oldman headwaters and source water in the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP).
The three key objectives of Goal 3 provide guidance for the action plan:
- Identify and understand the hydrologically significant areas in the headwaters.
- Identify, mitigate and prevent threats to headwaters and source waters.
- Define the kinds and intensity of land use activities as they relate to source water and headwater significant areas.
The aim of the Headwaters Action Plan is to initiate collaborative stewardship work that will address key issues to headwaters health - over time, and within the capacity of participating stakeholders and the watershed community.
Why the headwaters?
The Headwaters of the Oldman River watershed run east from the Rocky Mountains of southwest Alberta to join the South Saskatchewan River and eventually, Hudson Bay. The Headwaters receives the greatest accumulation of snow and rain in the Oldman watershed allowing it to provide 90% of the water that feeds our streams, lakes and groundwater! Although the Headwaters region is approximately 25km wide and makes up only 24% of the Oldman watershed, the health of the headwaters is essential to the health of the entire watershed.
An important water tower for southern Alberta, the Oldman watershed is also home to many species of fish and wildlife, including species at risk, such as bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout and grizzly bear. First Nations people have hunted and gathered in the Headwaters region for millennia, and it continues to be a source of great spiritual meaning in their culture. The Headwaters region also provides recreational opportunities in beautiful landscapes as well as economic benefits through agriculture (ranching), tourism, recreation, forestry, and mining.
Who is involved in the process?
Community engagement: Source to Tap community conversations
In 2012–2013, Water Matters and the Oldman Watershed Council collaborated on a community-based initiative to engage people in sharing their knowledge and priorities to further good stewardship of the Oldman River. The Source to Tap community conversations connected urban and rural residents together with people who use and steward land in the headwaters, to build common understanding of issues and stewardship practices. The Source to Tap community meetings linked with and informed the work of the Oldman Watershed Council in developing the Headwaters Action Plan – an initiative focused on managing and protecting headwaters health in the Oldman River Basin.
The community meetings were completed in two phases, with each addressing an important aspect of watershed health.
PHASE ONE: Use and Health of the Headwaters
To share local knowledge and increase understanding about water use, water quality, and river health, and to identify activities or factors that impact on headwaters health.
- PHASE TWO: Caring for the Headwaters
To encourage and gather local input on ways to protect the health of the Oldman River headwaters along the Eastern Slopes.
The Partnership Advisory Network (PAN) is the multi-stakeholder group invited to participate in the development and implementation of the Headwaters Action Plan 2013-14. Their participation and input to the creation of the plan and helping to address priority actions is key to maintaining and protecting headwaters integrity. They wrote the plan and are helping to implement it.
Members of the Partnership Advisory Network represent public, private or municipal sectors that have interest in the headwaters area, and also, with the scope of their mandates, the capacity to implement stewardship action for headwaters health.
Sectors invited to the Partnership Advisory Network include:
- agriculture (irrigated/non-irrigated)
- provincial government
- non-government organizations
- environmental non-government organizations
In order to initiate a greater understanding of First Nations concerns we held a sharing circle with members of the Piikani and Blood Tribe. The importance of water and land at a cultural level was shared. We continue a dialogue to see where and how we can work together on projects. Our Board membership reflects indigeneous representation.
How did the Headwaters Action Plan process unfold?
All community and stakeholder processes were integrated with other streams of input and information in the development of the Headwaters Action Plan 2013-14. These included scientific assessment of headwaters health, public perspectives on headwaters health and stewardship, supporting information from other initiatives related to the headwaters, and engagement and sharing of information and knowledge between the members of the Partnership Advisory Network (PAN).
The PAN made decisions by consensus about what targets would be set and what community actions and recommendations to decision makers were needed to achieve the targets.
- Headwaters Indicators Project
- Oldman Historical Trends (The Oldman Watershed: An Overview)
- Landscape Patterns Analysis
- Crowsnest Pass Groundwater study
So we have a plan. Now what?
The OWC is focusing on the Dutch Creek Pilot Project and Engaging Recreationists as our contribution to implementing the HAP. We are also coordinating the efforts of our partners to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. There are many efforts underway by many organizations - something to celebrate!