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Conservation organization critical of province’s water advisory committee

A mild winter has left the Oldman and other rivers dry. A mild winter has left the Oldman and other rivers dry.

The province has put together a water advisory committee to advise the government on how to best manage its water resources that some critics feel has a pretty substantial blind spot.

The six member committee will face a challenging task as the province braces for drought this summer.

But the committee doesn't feature anyone with an environmental background which has left some frustrated.

“It just seemed liked a glaring omission if we're supposed to be thinking about drought. It's an environmental issue (and) we should probably have people with an environmental perspective and background there,” said Phillip Meintzer, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA).

Three members are representatives of municipalities across the province.

The remaining three represent the interests of industry, irrigation and the Indigenous community.

"When it comes to water, we are all in it together," said Alberta's Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz in a news release issued Tuesday.

"This committee will provide me with ideas and perspectives from leaders across the province. They'll share what they are hearing and seeing and help identify new or better ways to support families, farms, ranches and businesses if we face a severe drought this year."

The members of the volunteer committee include:

  • Justin Wright, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat;
  • Paul McLauchlin, reeve of Ponoka County and president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta;
  • Ian Anderson, former CEO of Trans Mountain;
  • Alex Ostrop, chair of the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association;
  • Jack Royal, CEO of the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council; and
  • Tanya Thorn, mayor of Okotoks and director, Towns South on the board of Alberta Municipalities.

The province says all of the members will only receive reimbursement for travel expenses associated with their roles.

The AWA feels someone involved with the environment could have had a positive impact.

Meintzer said, “It's important to recognize we do need to leave some water in these rivers and streams. There's a certain amount of water that needs to stay in there just for the long term health of these ecosystems. Water isn't just a resource for human consumption.”

The province released a statement defending its choice of committee members saying "Alberta’s water advisory committee is intended to provide a sounding board of various groups that will be impacted by drought in the coming months. More specifically, the committee includes representation of leaders with relevant experience in agriculture, irrigation, Indigenous, industry, rural and urban issues to ensure we hear from all voices affected.”

How the province deals with potential drought could be more important than ever.

A mild winter has left the Oldman and other Southern Alberta rivers dry.

With files from Michael Franklin Top Stories

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