"Keeping the Athabasca" Citizens' Water Forum and Watershed Stewardship Workshop

March 3, 2010 - 7:00am to March 6, 2010 - 7:00am

Keeping the Athabasca: Water is Life… As Long as the Rivers Flow

A Citizens' Inquiry into the Monitoring, Management & Protection of our Athabasca Basin Watersheds, Surface & Ground Waters


The Keepers of the Athabasca and their cooperating partners invite you to participate in our March 03 -06 "Keeping the Water : Water is Life...As Long as the Rivers Flow..." Gathering , a free citizens'  forum and stewardship workshop examining the management, monitoring and protection of  our Athabasca Basin watersheds and surface and ground waters. These Athabasca meetings are part of an ongoing series of community groundwater and watershed forums held in  Athabasca Basin communities this winter. Together with Crooked Creek Conservancy, Safe Drinking Water Foundation, Athabasca University and Science Outreach Athabasca, the Keepers of the Athabasca are hosting three days of water educational meetings here at Athabasca. These events are to be held at several Athabasca Town venues. More detailed information will be posted at the Keepers of the Water website and that of the Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF).

Daily Schedule of Events

Briefly, we begin Wednesday March 03 at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex with two events: a 4:30 PM public meeting on the proposed Tawatinaw River Realignment and the Keepers Groundwater Health Forum at 7:00pm with Hydrogeologist Dr.Gilles Wendling. This presentation will present a wonderfully illustrated  "Groundwater Health Basics101 and look at possible groundwater & aquifer concerns related to Insitu Tar Sands , gravel extraction and landfills.

Thursday March 04 is "Safe Drinking Water Day" at the Athabasca Native Friendship Centre with Waterkeeper Bob Pratt of the SDWF examining some of the drinking water source and treatment problems far too common in rural and Aboriginal communities.  This often prevents these Canadians from having clean drinking water as the fundamental human right it is. The Day covers such topics as water source protection from algae and other intake problems and compares conventional chemical water treatment with SDWF-preferred reverse osmosis and biological methods. Safe Drinking Water Day is focussed particularly on community water treatment plant staff and councillors with that responsibility. However, it will be of interest to all citizens committed to ensuring safe drinking water for all Canadians. Contact Nicole at SDWF at [306] 934-0389 or [email protected] for further information and to register.

Thursday evening at 7:00PM, Science Outreach Athabasca  and Athabasca University hosts Dr. Kevin Timoney's  review of research "Does the Alberta Tar Sands Industry Pollute: The Scientific Evidence" at the Athabasca University Council Chambers .

On Friday March 05, at 9:00AM, Athabasca's Crooked Creek Conservancy and partners host the full day " Athabasca Basin Water Forum: An Inquiry into the State of Management, Monitoring and Protection of Athabasca Basin Watersheds and Waters" at Athabasca's Nancy Appleby Theatre. We start with the acknowledgement that Water is Life , and a fundamental right, and that aquatic ecosystem health and clean drinking water should be  the primary  values and goals of Athabasca Basin management, The forum examines the scientific evidence and Traditional  Ecological Knowledge in critically assessing the ecological and health effectiveness of current Basin management by governments and industry.

The day will feature research reports from two of Canada's most esteemed water scientists. Dr David Schindler will present "Pollution of the Athabasca River by the Oil Sands Industry". Dr. Suzanne Bayley will present some of her work on Athabasca Basin peatlands and examine some of the major industrial threats to the wetlands and challenges to their restoration.

Following presentations on current and proposed management frameworks for allocating downriver Athabasca River Water by Carolyn Campbell AND for planning industrial  use zones and protecting Lower Athabasca lands by Helene Walsh,  we will hold three panels discussing and responding to these scientific and planning /management presentations.  The first panel will assess the ecological effects of current and proposed surface water use allocation frameworks under varying river flow regimes and industrial takeout schedules. A followup question is how will our water managers address the use and cumulative effects of insitu tarsands development on deep and surficial aquifers and groundwater generally?

A second panel will critically examine the empirical truth of the longstanding government and industry  explanation that downstream ecological and human health effects are explained entirely by ‘naturally occurring ‘ hydrocarbons and other pollutants along the Athabasca.

The third panel will look at present and anticipated wetland and other landscape impacts of rapid openpit, insitu tarsands  and other industrial development on surface and underground lands. Are these lands restorable, if so how, when and by whom? What needs to be set aside and protected ? How effective are our current planning and management practices?

Friday evening will provide an informal change of pace with a variety of films and slide presentations about the Athabasca, its Boreal ecology, and the vision and work of the Keepers of the Water.   

Saturday March 06 offers a community stewardship workshop on Keeping our Athabasca.  Keepers of the Watershed Day will begin our morning with a traditional Elders Welcome and Talking Circle. Each participant may share their brief report on the state of their community tributary stream or wetland. They will also be asked to bring their story of their community concerns or stewardship work project. We will ask stewards/Keepers who are currently addressing issues with stream realignment, restoration, gravel extraction, landfills, large industrial and municipal water withdrawals and insitu projects to bring their action progress reports.  

Saturday afternoon will address the building of stewardship capacity of Athabasca Basin  communities and possible roles for the Keepers of the Water. This Day's  particular focus will be the monitoring and  reporting of the health of our watersheds and waters. We will look at existing programmes and assess needs for further community self monitoring  achievable by Keepers or other volunteer stewards. Understanding and documenting traditional environmental knowledge is an important part of that. We will look at community monitoring and river watch programmes developed elsewhere in terms of possible application to the Athabasca Basin. We hope to come to some beginning consensus on a possible Athabasca Basin RiverWatch. We may  begin to plan such a programme and examine  its possible relation to the exploration of the Heritage River programme.

All people interested in learning about water and watersheds are invited to participate in this series of forums, in part or whole. We particularly welcome citizens of the Athabasca Basin who would be interested in getting involved with the stewardship of their watersheds and water. We encourage you to participate and become an active Keeper of your community and tributary.

Lunches will be available to participants. In order to plan lunches, we would appreciate your email or phone notice of your intent to participate. An email registration form is  attached with the Forum Programme Package. While there is no charge for the event donations are welcomed and will be directed to Athabasca Basin stewardship work.

The Keepers of the Athabasca are the Athabasca Basin Council of the Arctic Basin Keepers of the Water. We are First Nations,Metis, environmental groups and watershed citizens working together for the protection of water, land and air and thus all living things today and tomorrow in the Athabasca River and Lake Watershed.

For further information please contact Harvey Scott, 780-675-4158, e-mail [email protected] OR Janice Pitman 780-675-5251, e-mail [email protected].

If you are interested in participating in the Safe Drinking Water Day, please register with Nicole at SDWF [306] 934-0389 or [email protected].


Various locations
Athabasca , AB