DOWNSTREAM FROM REGINA: Protecting and Restoring the Qu’Appelle Watershed*

I. DECADES OF CONTAMINATION

For decades Regina’s poorly or untreated sewage has degraded eco-system health downstream in the Qu’Appelle Valley watershed. Regina’s refusal to prioritize modernizing its wastewater treatment means that people sometimes can’t swim, eat the fish, walk their pets or even boat. Aquatic life suffers and the wellbeing of those that make the valley their home or their place for summer respite is being undermined.

And there’s no excuse; for years Professor Peter Leavitt and his associates at the University of Regina have shown the major role Regina’s sewage plays in degrading this waterway. Since then other scientists have added to our knowledge of the causes of the degradation of the waterways. It is all preventable and reversible.

Meanwhile, for years, rather than being proactive, Regina politicians and officials have made other matters their priority. Out of sight, out of mind may have worked in the past, but after the sewage dumping into Wascana Creek in the summer of 2014 this is no longer going to be tolerated by downstream residents.

Many forms of contamination have degraded the Qu’Appelle watershed. Metal contamination increases with the growth of urbanization, agriculture and industry. Most of the catchment area for the Qu’Appelle River basin includes such exposure – e.g. a steel plant, oil refinery, fertilizer plant and potash mine near Regina. Metal contamination from erosion is increased by agricultural tilling, irrigation and use of chemicals; coal plants and waste incineration send metals into the atmosphere which find their way into the watershed.

Metal pollutants accumulate in lake sediment and eventually enter aquatic food webs. Leavitt’s research suggests that small aquatic invertebrates in the Qu’Appelle system “may have been exposed to damaging levels of toxic metals for 100 years”. He concludes that “overall, potential toxic metals from urban and industrial sources accumulate significantly within invertebrate diapausing (dormant) eggs, while less toxic metals preferentially accumulate in the sediment matrix2. The more toxic metals include cadmium, chromium and molybdenum.

ALGAE TOXIN

Then there is nitrogen loading. Sediment analysis suggests that as much as 70% of the nitrogen pollution in the Qu’Appelle waterway comes from Regina. (A lot of phosphorous also comes from agriculture.) The nitrogen influx results in heavy algal blooms which can elevate to toxic levels. Excessive algal growth can deplete oxygen levels in lakes and result in die offs of fish and other aquatic organisms. Pasqua Lake, the first lake 175 km downstream from Regina, is the most heavily affected. In earlier research it was estimated that this fairly shallow lake contained about 300% more algae than in pre-colonial times; currently it’s estimated to be 500%. Most nitrogen gets sequestered in lake sediment but when saturation occurs nutrients are passed downstream to the other Qu’Appelle lakes. This is now chronic.

We also now know that there are other pollutants coming from Regina. Researching for Environment Canada between 2005-2007 Dr. Marley Waiser found personal care products, like aspirin derivatives, estrogens and antibiotics downstream.

Regina has been extremely irresponsible. The last time Regina made a major upgrade of its wastewater plant was in 1977, to include tertiary treatment, i.e. “clarification” to remove some phosphorous. Nearly 40 years later this is not “state of the art” and the City has fallen far behind the treatment standards of other prairie cities. City politicians and officials have had other priorities, like Harbour Landing and a new football stadium.

I had some personal experience with this matter, for I was on Regina’s City Council in the mid-1990s, during the time when Doug Archer was mayor. Meeting on capital budget, I raised planning for upgrading water treatment and water quality. I was told in no uncertain terms that with property reassessment coming, suburban taxes would increase and councilors from those wards would lose their seats if we dared consider these capital costs. Other councilors agreed in word or by silence and the matter was dropped.

I’m not privy to how this matter was handled during Mayor Fiacco’s terms. City officials claim they’ve been budgeting for the needed wastewater upgrade, yet nothing significantly happened until the federal and provincial governments created some timelines. So here we are in 2014 with Regina the only major prairie city still not to have upgraded its sewage treatment. The cost of doing this has continued to rise and was slated to be well over $200 million3.

MISPLACED PRIORITIES

City priorities have been misplaced. Regina’s present Mayor Fougere and council tried to end-run the electorate by approving, with insufficient public input, the massive spending to build a new football stadium. Mosaic Stadium was to have a $14 million upgrade to prepare it for the 2013 Grey Cup and in a few years the old stadium was to be torn down. The proposed new stadium will have about the same seating capacity as Mosaic Stadium. Its total cost, including loan interest and maintenance over a 30 year period was initially estimated to be around $675 million which did not include cost overruns4.

Earlier past Mayor Fiacco justified announcing the new stadium plans at a Roughrider game, saying that “users will pay”, suggesting that raising the facility fee for games by $4 will cover the provincial loan. Yet only $100 million of the total $675 million was likely to come from this. Sounding a little like Prime Minister Harper, who also sidesteps democratic due process, he said “we were elected to make decisions”. He ignored the fact that stadium upgrades in 1977 came after a plebiscite. 

The province agreed to contribute an $80 million grant and the Roughriders will only have to pay $25 million mostly from corporate sponsorships. According to Regina City Council’s initial funding plan, $300 million would come from the pockets of Regina taxpayers, who will be required to pay a 0.45% increase in property taxes each year for 10 years. Forced to foot this huge bill, how would Regina’s taxpayers view spending the additional hundreds of millions required to stop contaminating the Qu’Appelle Valley waterways?

A stadium adds to the “quality of life” of sports fans. But what about Regina’s responsibility for undercutting the quality of life downstream! On the City’s web page there’s mention that an upgrade of sewage treatment will be required by 2016 (province) and 2020 (federal), yet there haven’t been any no-strings attached government grants forthcoming. The question remains: why the province spent $80 million for a Regina stadium while ignoring Regina’s sewage pollution?

The City’s diagram on waste treatment highlights its sediment removal, aerated lagoons, clarification and UV disinfecting and then ends abruptly, showing only an arrow for the discharge of its poorly treated effluent into Wascana Creek. For those living downstream this is where the contamination begins. Meanwhile the City has left the impression that the main problem with sewage treatment is persisting odour. It doesn’t acknowledge its main role in polluting the Qu’Appelle Valley lakes; which can reinforce disinformation that “the lakes have always had high algae.” Based on a 1999 report it even alleges that “the City is a leader in treating wastewater”. Tell this to the residents and cottagers living along Pasqua or other Qu’Appelle Valley lakes.

II. BEING PROACTIVE ABOUT OUR WATERSHED

When you live in urban Saskatchewan you perhaps can more easily convince yourself that water sources are limitless. When you live by a lake that’s downstream from Regina you soon realize that all our water comes from the same watershed.

Regina and Moose Jaw depend upon Buffalo Pound Lake for their water and this reservoir lake is on the same watershed as the Qu’Appelle lakes. So, like the rest of us, their residents have a huge stake in protecting the watershed that supports both the quality of life and life itself. There may be some legitimate differences in rural and urban priorities but protecting our common watershed is not one of them.

Regina and Moose Jaw’s dependence on Buffalo Pound has grown markedly over the last half century. In 1955 the two cities drew 4,000 megalitres (4,000,000 litres) of “raw water” from the reservoir; by 2010 the volume had risen nearly ten-fold to 37,000 Megalitres. Regina’s growth was largely responsible: in 1966 the city bought 9,000 megalitres from Buffalo Pound, but by 2012 this was up more than three-fold to 29,000 megalitres5.

The rate of increase in Regina’s demand declined somewhat in the early nineties, when people finally started to realize that there were ecological limits to the amount of water that could be extracted. But the economic growth pressures presently being perpetuated by provincial and corporate policies, especially for potash mines, will surely continue to place increased pressures on Buffalo Pound.

WATER CONSERVATION

Water conservation is vital to any sustainable watershed plan; water can always be used more efficiently and it can be recycled. How effective has Regina been? According to the City’s 2013 Water Utility Budget there has been some success. The five year average for the consumption of Regina’s metered water peaked at 24.4 million cubic meters between 1995 and 1999. It started to fall slightly after that, to 23.8 between 2000 and 2004 and then to 22.7 between 2005 and 2009. And the figure for 2010 also dropped further to 21.1 million cubic meters.6

But then the consumption started to rise. In 2011 it was back to 22.1 and the projected consumption for 2013 was 23.1 million cubic meters, near the 2000-2004 level. Even if per capita water use declines, population growth and growing non-residential uses of water can push consumption upwards. Most people don’t realize that nearly one-third of Regina’s water is presently consumed for non-residential purposes.

There’s lots of room for improvement, for example, reducing the water wasted through leakage and breaks in a deteriorating infrastructure. But according to Regina’s own data, the percent of water being wasted continues to rise. (This is fairly easy to estimate; you just subtract the total amount of water billed to all property owners from the total amount purchased from the Buffalo Pound reservoir.) The percent unaccounted for in 2007 was 16.8%, in 2008 it was 17.2%, in 2009 it was 18.1% and in 2010 it was 18.8 %. There was a very slight drop in 2011 to 18.2 %. But that’s nearly one in every five gallons that comes out of the expensive Buffalo Pound plant.

Regina uses an index of water loss called Infrastructure Leakage Index (ILI). In 2011 the ILI for Regina was 3.63 which the City says is within the “good” though not the “excellent” range. If the loss of nearly one in five gallons of water is “good”, what would “bad” mean?

Regina admits “there is potential for marked improvements” but in its 2013 Utility Budget it says “that further water loss reduction, although possible, may be uneconomical”. What is meant by “uneconomical”? That it’s cheaper to withdraw even more water from the Qu’Appelle watershed than to upgrade its own infrastructure? That improving its waterworks is not politically sellable with the coming multi-million dollar cost of an overdue waste water treatment plant? That the costly new stadium is too much of a political football to honestly put city infrastructure challenges on the table?

There are additional issues. Due to the corrosive effect of the treated water there is “softening of concrete tanks in the water treatment plant and slow deterioration of piping and fittings”, though the City report  adds “this is not a cause for immediate concern”. Is this another cost being displaced onto future taxpayers?

WATER QUALITY

The City also faces costly challenges regarding the quality of water coming from Buffalo Pound. Due to algae and other organics the lake “has required higher levels of treatment to provide water that meets the City’s water quality objectives.” Yet the continued use of chlorination for disinfection creates “byproducts known as trihalomethanes (THM) and heloacetic acids” which the city finally admits “are dangerous to human health”.7 Its Long Term Water Utility Plan referred to in its 2013 Utility Budget recommends “reducing the use of chlorine, if possible in conjunction with the addition of ultraviolent light disinfection”. This plan also notes that “The percentage of time that taste and ordour control is required has been increasing for a number of years”. 

Remember that Regina’s backup system is nine wells in and around the city which are “available for emergency water supply in the event of a failure in the Buffalo Pound water supply”. But these wells provide “less that the City’s typical daily needs” and further, they have “levels of iron, magnesium and hardness that do not meet”, what the City calls its “aesthetic objectives”.

Most revealing, this 2013 report shows that the City knew that “the existing wastewater lagoons are overloaded and under review8. So, though it surprised and even shocked those of us downstream, when Regina dumped untreated sewage into Wascana Creek for twelve days during the 2014 summer flood, it may not have been such a surprise to the City or the regulators at the Water Security Agency (WSA). We need to get to the bottom of this.

SUSTAINABILITY

Every five years a Waterworks System Assessment is required to ensure, among other things, the “sustainability” of the system. At present Moose Jaw and Regina “contribute an amount equal to 10% of the general water charges to a Capital Replacement Fund.” Regina’s share is 73%. But is that Fund accumulating enough resources to enable Regina to address all these pressing challenges? And what value is being given to protect the source, the watershed itself?

The Buffalo Pound plant uses a cost-recovery system with the 2013 water rate set at $225.02 for one million litres. Compare this to the $1.50 that it costs to purchase a litre of bottled water. Regina’s 2013 Utility Budget says the 3.9% increase over 2012 is “primarily due to rising costs for electricity, increases in unit prices for treating chemicals, equipment price increases and increases for wages and benefits”. The cost of the actual water pumped to Regina was only $6.4 million for 2013, “about 53.5% of the total costs” for supply, pumping and distribution and “about 13% of the total utility costs”. Is the watershed and water being taken for granted?

The panacea to ensure economic and urban growth still seems to be “more”. Rather than seriously investing in water conservation, infrastructure upgrade and water quality, extracting more water is seen as the “economic” way to go. So we find in Buffalo Pound’s 2012 Annual Report that in consultations with the WSA, the South Central Enterprise Region is proposing a “plan for a flow rate of up to 25 cubic meters per second in the Upper Qu’Appelle River; more than three times the volume the current channel can presently accommodate”. One suggestionis the construction and operation of a channel out of the valley, on the south side of the river”.  And what will this huge channel cost the provincial taxpayer?  And how long can we carry on with the delusion that there will always be more water? Regina’s long overdue decision to upgrade its wastewater treatment is a small start but it has a long way to go to do its part to protect our common watershed.

III. REGINA’S GREAT WATER REFERENDUM

On September 25, 2013, Regina’s citizens went to the polls to vote on whether the new wastewater treatment plant would remain public or go private. People across the province and country watched closely. There was no question that Regina needed to upgrade its sewage treatment: heavy metals, nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia levels that can kill fish and even pharmaceutical residues were all being found far downstream. The Qu’Appelle lakes regularly accumulate toxic blue-green algae resulting largely from Regina’s untreated waste. And we have since seen what procrastination and misplaced priorities can lead to when Regina released masses of untreated sewage into the watershed during the 2014 summer flood.

But much more than water was involved; local democracy was also impacted. Regina’s civic life had heated up ever since Mayor Fougere and council voted preemptively in February, 2013 to build the new plant as a P3 or public-private partnership. On the surface this looked straightforward: the federal government would provide a grant of 25% of the capital costs which could, P3 supporters argued, reduce the costs to the local taxpayer. And the mayor and council stubbornly stuck to this story in spite of all accumulating evidence.

LESSONS ABOUT P3s

There’s a lot to learn from other P3’s. Their goal is not so much cost-effectiveness and fiscal responsibility but fulfilling an ideological commitment to privatize public services for profit, which typically ends up costing us more. Moncton built a P3 water treatment plant in 1998 at a cost of $31 million compared to the $23 million it would have cost had it remained public. Water rates skyrocketed 75% and Moncton’s citizens now pay much higher rates than the Canadian average.

Hamilton, Ontario and Abbottsford, B.C. also learned their hard lessons from failed P3s. As did our neighbor province Alberta, which in 2014 abandoned P3’s to build 19 schools. A study of twenty-eight P3 projects in Ontario found that “public-private partnerships cost an average of 16 percent more than conventional tendered contracts.9 This was due to higher borrowing and legal-consulting costs. It’s not surprising that Europeans who spearheaded P3s are now returning to fully public services, which is called “re-municipalization”.

Calculations of the proposed Regina P3 plan suggested it could cost much more than a public project and nullify any fiscal advantages to seeking the federal grant. Remember that Harper offered a strings-attached grant; the city must privatize waste water treatment to get it. And this federal grant also comes from the same taxpayer. Thus Harper used public money to entice Regina to privatize its new wastewater treatment plant into the for-profit market and the local taxpayer will be left to subsidize any extra costs. This looks a lot like ideological bullying.

Regina’s mayor and council simply hadn’t done their homework and the city turned to secrecy and disinformation to push through their P3 proposal. The city refused to make the complete consulting report done by Deloitte available to the public, showing how public oversight can get sacrificed once you move towards privatization. The city then tried to discredit the public petition from 24,000 residents calling for a referendum. The attempt to disqualify 3,000 people because they didn’t put the year “2013” beside their signature was a big smack in the face of local democracy. “What other year could it be?, residents rightly asked?

On July 22, 2013 when city council chambers were jammed-packed with residents calling for a referendum, the council was pretty much shamed into voting to go ahead. But the deception continued; the city went on inventing numbers to try to frighten the electorate into voting for the P3 project. And it seemed to have worked, though only barely. Only 31% of eligible voters turned out, down from 41% during the last city referendum in 1987. The P3 won by under 7,000 votes (27,988 to 21,102) of the 157,198 eligible voters, which was a pretty weak mandate.

Independent economist High Mackenzie had already conducted a “Financial Analysis of the City of Regina Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion and Upgrade.10 He concluded that the private partner would be responsible for $103 million of the $224 million project. The borrowing costs for the private company could be about 2% higher than for the City (say 6% compared to 4%) and legal-consulting costs would also be much higher. Most vital, the profit rate has to be factored in. Assuming 80% of the capital could be borrowed and a 10% return on equity, the private costs could skyrocket to $164 million, over $60 million more than if the City controlled the whole project. If the profit rate were 15% the extra cost to taxpayers would be closer to $80 million.

The mayor and council weren’t candid that all these costs, including covering the profit of the private operator, ultimately go to the taxpayer. Yet, as the Deloitte summary report itself said: “In no model…does the private sector fund the project; all costs are ultimately born by City of Regina utility ratepayers…and the federal government.”  In other words the taxpayer would pay to privatize the utility in the corporate interest.11

During the referendum campaign Regina’s Mayor Fougere and council continued to claim that their P3 project will save money. City ads claimed that if the public votes to “keep water public” the City would lose the $58.5 in federal funding. On their publicly-paid-for billboards it emphasized that this would add $276 dollars a year for each household’s sewer and water.

And just where did they get the figure from?  They seem to have taken the maximum federal grant of $58.5 million and then arbitrarily added another $21 million that they claim will be saved by having the same company design and construct the plant. Then they divided the total of $80 million by the number of households over a four year period. These were highly politicized calculations.

The $21 million in supposed projected savings would equally apply to a public project if it used the same company to design and build. And why did they use a four-year term for a proposed 30 year P3 contract? Was this simply a way to get a big enough figure to get the public’s attention?

The mayor seemed confused about the numbers. On September 10th he said “Over the course of a 30-year contract, we’ll save just under $80 million…That translates into $276 a year saving for the average property owner…”12 Other city sources however said that the $276 figure came from calculating only over a 4-year period. Furthermore it is city council and not the mayor and his handlers that set the sewer and water rate and this number didn’t go to council before it was used publicly.

Meanwhile promoting the privatization of water had already cost the Regina taxpayer. The mayor admitted on August 14, 2013 on CJME that the city’s pro-P3 campaign was “estimated to reach at least $340,000.” There is something fundamentally wrong here; much more than water quality was now involved in the water crisis.

Many Regina residents with cottages along the Qu’Appelle lakes, downstream from Regina’s untreated sewage, joined the call for an upgraded treatment plant. Continual monitoring and phasing in of new sewage treatment technology which could lead to zero nutrients and remove pharmaceutics and other toxins will be required to restore lake water quality and eco-system health. This will take an integrated and highly adaptive plan. A P3 water treatment plant could have a very different bottom line. The concerned public must now carefully monitor how this project unfolds.

IV. FLOODING: THE NEW REALITY

Some people talked about the 2011 spring flood as if it was just part of an ongoing “natural” cycle. Some compared it to the severe floods of 1974 or 1955. As a teenager in 1955 I well remember canoes going down the streets near overflowing Wascana Creek.

Some record high levels still stand from these earlier floods; the highest recorded levels for Buffalo Pound and Wascana Lake were in 1974. And, even after the 2011 flood, the 1955 records stand for Last Mountain, Round and Crooked lakes. On the surface then it doesn’t seem that the 2011 flood was particularly special. Until we look more carefully at the figures!

The 2013 Spring Runoff Outlook from the Water Security Agency (WSA) included statistics on “Lake Levels at Selected Lakes and Reservoirs in Saskatchewan.13” This included information on “normal summer levels”, “recorded historical extremes”, 2011 and 2012 peak levels, as well as 2013 forecasts. These are all reported as meters above sea level.

HISTORIC HIGHS

The recorded historical extreme for Crooked Lake remained 454.38 meters from 1955. That same year Round Lake reached its highest level of 445.3 meters and Last Mountain Lake reached 492.09 meters. In 1974, Wascana Lake and Buffalo Pound reached their recorded historical extremes, 572.23 and 511.45 meters respectively. There were various other peak years for other Saskatchewan water bodies.14

In a nutshell, eight of the 23 monitored Saskatchewan water-bodies had their historical extremes in the 30 years between 1955 and 1985, whereas in the 28 years since then, 15 reached their highest recorded level. But, most noteworthy, 11 of these 15 water-bodies set their historic highs in 2011. Most occurred after the spring flooding: Lake Diefenbaker – 556.90, Echo and Pasqua Lakes – 480.98, Fishing Lake – 530.92, Katepwa and Mission Lakes – 479.58, Lenore Lake – 527.79, Moose Mountain Lake – 621.71. But some set record highs after summer downpours: Lake Alameda – 568.58 meters; La Ronge Lake – 364.98 and Rafferty Lake – 554.05 meters.

The 2011 spring flood was clearly exceptional, but was this the result of big weather cycles or something else? Did the spring 2013 warnings reflect a pattern of more regular flooding, including from summer super-rains, as seen in other places on the planet? Was something like the 2014 summer super-flood already “in the cards”? 

In its March 5, 2013 forecast, the WSA said the “Areas around Moose Jaw, Regina, Melville, Saskatoon and North Battleford have potential for very high runoff.” They reported that there’s “very high” snowpack, over 200% above the normal, in central southern Saskatchewan, a large area running from Moose Jaw to Regina to Indian Head. The same conditions were reported in a smaller area north of Saskatoon and southwest of Prince Albert. And all around these areas of “very high” snowpack, snow levels ranged between 150-200% above normal.

There was clearly going to be a lot of snow melt and runoff going into the few river basins. In 2013 some lakes were even forecasted to be fairly close (within 0.2 meters) to their highest recorded levels: Anglin Lake (515.7 meters), Boundary Reservoir (561), Lake Diefenbaker (556.8), Jackfish Lake (529.9) and Wakaw Lake (509.7).

The WSA qualified its forecasts, saying it all depended on the melt and whether there was more snow or rainfall in the spring. But if we look at the Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle Rivers basins, the warning was fairly clear:  “…the existing snowpack in the Qu’Appelle River basin is well above normal. Typical spring precipitation and a typical rate of melt is (sic) expected to produce flows approaching those experienced in 2011.”

The historic flows on the Assiniboine River were set in 1995 at Sturgis (111 cubic meters per second), Canora (247 m3/s) and Kamsack (488 m3/s).  The 2011 flows at these points were far above the average: 91 m3/s compared to an average of 28 at Sturgis, 234 compared to an average of 29 at Canora and 369 compared to an average of 59 at Kamsack. The 2013 flow forecasts (70 m3/s at Sturgis, 75 at Canora and 170 at Kamsack) were all well below both the historic high and the high 2011 levels.

QU’APPELLE WATERSHED

What about the Qu’Appelle River basin? The historic high flows were in 1974 for various sites: Lumsden, Craven, Thunder Creek, Burdick and Regina. Near Abernethy the historic flow was in 1976, for Spy Hill it was in 1995 and for Boulder Lake it was in 2006. However, near Loon Creek, Hyde and Welby, the historic flow was in 2011 (163, 254 and 345 m3/s respectively). The 2013 forecasts at all these locations were however all below their historic highs.

However, because of a record snowpack in the Wascana Creek basin the WSA forecasted a 1 in 50 year “snowmelt runoff event with a peak flow estimate of 90 cubic meters per second” for the City of Regina. This forecast was even higher than the peak flow of 76 m3/s in 2011, though still below the record high of 102 in 1974. And the 2013 forecast of 210 m3/s for the Moose Jaw River at Burdick was higher than the 2011 level of 197. Likewise the 2013 forecast of 38m3/s near Abernethy was slightly up from the 2011 level of 35. These forecasts however remained below their historic highs in the 1970s. The Craven forecast of 100 m3/s was just below the 2011 level of 107 and well below the 1974 record high of 141. The WSA noted that Craven’s control structure “will be fully opened prior to spring runoff”.

The forecasted peak levels and some peak flows nevertheless gave residents good reason to prepare, especially in the Qu’Appelle Valley. While forecasting is risky, it’s a better basis for planning than selective memory or conjecture. And the WSA reminded us: “A slow melt, similar to what we experienced in 2011, could reduce the peak significantly. Conversely, a rapid melt similar to 1974 and/or significant precipitation between now and runoff could result in a higher peak flow than currently estimated”. By the March equinox we’d already had this “significant precipitation” and more was on the way.

Lots of uncertainty remained, but the record snowpack and preliminary forecasts were a wakeup call. A common view is that because of the fairly dry 2010 fall, the ground had a great capacity to absorb moisture and this may have been partially true, depending on the nature of the melt and any additional precipitation. Others speculated that because lake levels were low coming out of a relatively dry fall, there was little chance of lakeshore flooding, as had happened in 2011. But according to the WSA, the size of the snowpack and the nature of the melt remained the major factors influencing the magnitude of runoff. Many thousands of sandbags were consequently made along the Qu’Appelle lakes and thankfully we averted another disaster like 2011, for awhile.

V. THE 2014 FLOOD: MORE THAN A WAKEUP CALL

The summer flood of 2014 came as we tried to celebrate Canada Day. But no one was celebrating sewage in their basement or in the lakes they love. As if unprecedented, prolonged rainfall wasn’t enough, or Regina dumping untreated sewage into the Qu’Appelle watershed for well over a week. Low lying communities flooded and eighty of them including cottage country at Crooked and Round lakes ended up in states of emergency. But, it wasn’t over; we soon found that the Qu’Appelle lakes were contaminated with dangerous E coli. Beaches closed at the height of summer.

It started to sink in that ongoing drainage of agricultural lands compounded the flooding and that Regina could get away with things that smaller municipalities could not. Our minds and hearts opened to the new reality, but will our heads-in-the sand governments finally get the bigger picture?

Soon the calamity was exposing cracks in watershed management. Those overseeing environmental health have likely not been high on the list of priorities of a government so bent on the unfettered growth of the extraction industry.

By July 3rd, after sampling 28 beaches, Sask Health was reporting “elevated E coli levels” in the Qu’Appelle lakes. This was said to be associated with the flooding, a no-brainer. A spokesperson later clarified, while not pointing fingers, that “It is known that sewage from municipal and private sewage systems as well as waste water from cattle areas has entered the lakes.” This begged the question of determining the biggest “point sources” of the contamination.

Meanwhile the Water Security Agency (WSA) was already saying that Regina’s releases of untreated sewage wasn’t involved; it would be “too diluted”, they asserted. By July 9th their tune had changed somewhat; the WSA admitting that Regina’s dumping “may have contributed to the issue”, while mentioning that “runoff from agricultural land can also contribute.” Then on July 11th, on a CTV report, a WSA spokesperson said he was “unsure where it is coming from” and speculated it could be coming from “agricultural operations… unplanned releases from communities… and flooded septic systems”. But then he claimed Regina was only responsible for “2% of the sewage flow” into the Qu’Appelle system.15

And without the benefit of findings from a planned “incident report”, Regina’s mayor was already referring to these WSA statements as a means to downplay Regina’s role in the E Coli and other contamination. Mayor Fourgere has written me that, “the WSA has publicly stated that the effluent from the City makes up less than two per cent of the total flow of the Qu’Appelle River when it reaches Craven and that number drops to less than one per cent by the time it reaches the Lower Qu’Appelle lake chain.” Like the WSA he also stressed that there are “numerous sources of contamination”.16

This just added to the confusion. The flow from Regina may be from 1-2% of the total flow into the Qu’Appelle system.17 But if this is loaded with untreated sewage it can contribute far higher amounts of E coli into the river system.18 This remains an empirical matter: how much Regina sewage was put into the system from June 26th on and had it made its way into the lakes by July 3rd when the beaches had to be closed due to E coli?19 Furthermore, the population serviced by Regina’s lagoons dwarfs the numbers who depend on the small lagoons along the Qu’Appelle watershed.20 And, while some minor septic tank pollution might have happened at Crooked or Round lakes where cottages flooded, this wouldn’t explain any contamination of upstream lakes.

And does WSA do sufficient monitoring to be able to isolate sources of contamination in such detail? If they did and had the support of their political masters, wouldn’t we be able to take much more effective preventative action to restore our watershed?

Will we find that the WSA is covering up for Regina’s irresponsible dumping of untreated sewage into the most contaminated watershed in the province? There are jurisdictions where governments would already be laying charges against such a large urban polluter. Will we be able to find out the details about the volume and nature of the sewage releases? And just why is Regina not required to have a Plan B that doesn’t rely on this magnificent though increasingly vulnerable recreational lake system as its back-up sewer, especially after admitting at least a year earlier that its lagoons “are overloaded”? It was notable that after it began its dumping, Regina reassured its residents that sewage wouldn’t be flowing through city limits.

WETLAND DESTRUCTION

But there was much more to be learned from this unprecedented flooding. When glaciers receded they left thousands of prairie sloughs which could store massive amounts of water. These “oases” helped nourish life through prolonged droughts and unique prairie habitats resulted. It’s now estimated that we’ve lost 70% of the wetlands which has degraded watersheds and biodiversity to the detriment of future generations. These simply must be restored as part of a watershed protection plan.

The WSA says addressing the widespread drainage of agricultural lands is part of its “25-year plan”. It clearly should be part of its one or two-year plan.  Complaints about farm drainage escalated after the 2011 flood; there apparently were still 161 active files in August 2012. What will the number be after the 2014 flood? 

We’ll soon see whether the seriousness of the problem truly sunk in for Premier Wall, after touring the southeast areas hardest hit. Today’s “open for business” governments generally prefer rhetoric over evidence: economy trumps ecology and the present trumps the future. Yet knowledge has been building for decades that the “almost anything goes” approach has been destroying vital prairie wetlands, helping set the stage for the massive flooding we experienced in 2014.

John Pomeroy of the U of S’s Centre for Hydrology has studied the Smith Creek Basin, a 400 square km area east of Yorkton by the Manitoba border.21 In the 1950s, 25% of this basin was still wetlands but it is now down to 11%. Since 1958 the flow has increased by 29%; in the 2011 flood the peak flow was up one-third. Their modeling suggests that if drainage ditching was allowed throughout the complete basin, the 2011 peak flow could have increased by nearly 80%.  So there’s really no doubt that ongoing “ditching contributed to the deluge” we experienced in 2014.

There are more dimensions to wetland preservation. Biologist Christy Morrissey of the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability has reported on her research on the impact of the accumulating pesticides known as “neonics” on the health of wetlands, insects and birds.22 These chemicals are linked with the sudden reduction of bee populations, which could threaten global food security.

But will governments abandon the laissez-faire approach where you ditch and spray first and perhaps ask permission later? After the 2014 flood then Environment Minister Cheveldayoff said they’ll “crack down on illegal drainage”, something that SARM has been calling for. But the “rights” of big property owners have become normalized in our political era. And with the huge equipment available to some farmers, they can easily take the matter of “protecting” their own property and crops into their own hands.

RIGHT TO HARM

The view that big land owners have inalienably property rights and shouldn’t be held accountable by common standards just compounds environmental and social problems for the rest of us. There are even U.S. jurisdictions where the notion of “right to farm” without government interference has been manipulated to imply the “right to harm”. Such a view has steadily gained ground in Canada, reaching a crescendo in the Harper government. Not willing to provide positive federal governance, important regulatory roles have been gutted or off-loaded, ultimately frustrating rural and urban municipalities. Did it really save the taxpayer money when Harper cut federal hydrology, climate and flood management budgets? As Ralph Goodale put it so well, where is the PFRA, another casualty of Harper, when we need it?

Pomeroy referred to “Canada’s woeful flood forecasting and management systems”. While climate science has been predicting new patterns of extreme weather, the WSA has been making plans based greatly on old realities. This is somewhat justified in view of the record-breaking 2011 spring flood and the close call we had of a repeat in the spring of 2013. But weather shifts from climate change are clearly part of a new reality, and this includes extreme summer flooding. The steadily warming atmosphere holds more moisture, and the jet stream is relocating and sometimes stalling. Our deep-freeze winter in 2013-2014 (the Arctic Vortex) and our record 2014 summer rainfall can reflect this, as can prolonged heat waves and mega-fires such as occurred in California and the NWT during 2014.

Getting rainfall equal to our annual amount in a few days is one thing. Getting this after the soil is already saturated from record-breaking snow-packs is another. Add in the impact of decades of ditching and drainage which accelerates agricultural run-off, sewage contamination from inadequate urban infrastructure and you get a “perfect storm”. You can probably also add in the recent assault on air quality from the huge forest fires to our north. It was only a matter of time before such a convergence occurred. Fasten your environmental seat belts!

But has the Wall government really got the message? I suspect not. So far more concern has been expressed about one-year crop losses than about the long-term “costs” to the watershed. $ 1 billion dollars is already being projected for crop damage due to the 2-3 million acres affected.

GOLDEN RULE

Of course I’m sympathetic to a farmer with 40 flooded acres who may lose $20,000, especially if the farmer couldn’t get last year’s bumper crop to market.23 These however are calculations from the strictly short-term economic model. Now we have to think of natural systems as having their own value. And we have to bring the Golden Rule and concern for impacts on our neighbours back into governance. And people downstream from us in Manitoba are also our neighbours.

Even if high carbon emissions can be justified as part of job-creation and government revenue, there are great costs that will come as blowback, as this flood shows. The Premier is already predicting that the bill from the 2014 summer flood will outdo the 2011 spring flood.

Even if wetland drainage can be justified as cost-effective for a big agricultural enterprise, it’s not “economic” in any ecological sense. And it’s not neighbourly. Nor is Regina dumping sewage into the Qu’Appelle watershed.

There is a real cost for a high carbon economy, and Saskatchewan still leads the country and much of the world in per capita emissions. There is a real cost for creating ditches that drain wetlands, even if these are excused on a case-by-case basis. And there are real costs for our capital city not proactively building an infrastructure that will conserve water and stop Regina from contaminating the irreplaceable Qu’Appelle Valley watershed. We simply must insist that our elected officials get their acts together. It’s way past the time for a wakeup call. It’s time polluters were held responsible for their actions.

VI. COMMUNITY ACTION: WATER IS LIFE

There was growing community concern about what was happening to our watershed long before the 2014 summer flood. On June 22, 2013, the Fort Qu’Appelle KAIROS group24 hosted a regional forum on water quality. Over one hundred people came – scientists, indigenous and settler residents, cottagers, municipal and provincial officials, watershed protection volunteers and many others came to hear talks, music and carry on conversations during the barbeque. The event was moderated by local United Church Minister Sharron Bodnaryk. I chaired the panel discussion.

The gathering was welcomed to Treaty 4 Territory by Edmund Bellegarde from the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council (FHQTC). He reaffirmed the theme that water is sacred, that water is life, drawing an analogy with how the blood flowing through our bodies maintains our life, with waterways being the “veins of mother earth”.  He expressed FHQTC’s concerns about both quality and quantity of water in the Qu’Appelle River system, highlighting increasing demands for water from industry, and called for collaboration to address these matters.

MORE CONTAMINANTS 

The keynote speaker was Dr. Marley Waiser, retired water scientist from Environment Canada. She outlined the findings of her 2005-07 study on the impacts of Regina’s sewage on Wascana Creek.25 She focused on pharmaceutics as well as the nitrogen nutrients that lead to toxic algae, while mentioning other research showing heavy metal contamination in the waterway.

More sensitive detection shows “widespread presence” of residues from pharmaceutical and personal care products flushed into Regina’s and Moose Jaw’s sewage systems. This includes everything from antibiotics to anti-infective hand soaps to birth control drugs.  Past sewage treatment plants weren’t designed to remove these and there is now scientific concern that “chronic exposure of low concentrations” may alter the aquatic food chain. Studies have shown that some contaminants lead to sex changes within fish.

The research site 105 km downstream from Regina detected contaminants. Waiser noted that you can’t depend on dilution from high water flows to flush the system; sometimes effluent from Regina can be “100% of the flow in Wascana Creek”. And it is shameful that the WSA and Regina’s mayor are still using the “dilution argument” to try to justify ongoing pollution.

Waiser advocated stringent monitoring while noting that there aren’t water quality objectives for pharmaceutics. She noted the importance of the Experimental Lakes Project which Harper’s government cut, in doing pioneering research on threats to Canada’s water quality. During questions she expressed concern about the “politicization of Environment Canada” under Harper, and noted that 80% of its water monitoring budget is now for Alberta’s oil sands, leaving little for the rest of the country. Science shouldn’t be used to manage political perception.

DIVERSE PANEL

The first panelist, Chief Todd Peigan from Pasqua First Nations raised the warning about increasing demands for water from the potash industry. He noted that other than the Western mine near Milestone, which wants to use Regina’s waste water, all proposed mines plan to get water from Buffalo Pound, the source of water for both Regina and Moose Jaw.

In March 2012 a FHQTC Summit on water and industry noted that the province’s new mines are around Moose Jaw, Regina and Melville. The Summit estimated that, excluding some “Mosaic requirements”, existing and proposed potash mines could use over “62 million cubic meters of water annually”.26

The province proposes a new channel from Lake Diefenbaker to Buffalo Pound, which the FHQTC Summit said would increase to 25 cubic meters a second. There’s also talk about creating an irrigated agro-business corridor along this channel. Chief Peigan continually raised the question of “availability”; “where was all this water to come from?”

Lake Diefenbaker provides water for nearly one-half of Saskatchewan’s residents. It already provides water for several potash mines and irrigation projects and was once even considered as the location for a nuclear plant.27 The vast majority of its water comes from Alberta. Yet researchers from the University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Security recently raised concerns about the levels of phosphorous coming downstream. Also global warming has already reduced by one-fifth the Alberta glaciers that help replenish Saskatchewan waterways and there are bound to be periods of future drought. Serious questions about upstream water quality and quantity remain.

Ken Hutchinson, chair of the Calling Lakes District Planning Commission (CLDPC), spoke of the negative impact of degraded lake water on the recreational economy. The CLDPC is a regional planning body in the making and includes Fort Qu’Appelle, Lebret, Fort San, B-Say-Tah, Katepwa and the regional Rural Municipality, as well as several Associates, including Lipton and the Treaty Four Tribal Council.

Hutchinson has been raising regional concerns about poor water quality with both levels of government. The federal government says it has “bigger problems”, such as raw sewage from big cities still going into oceans. Because of the impact on the valuable commercial fishery the federal government is however expressing some concerns about the serious state of algae, fish-toxicity in Lake Winnipeg. And this ultimately relates to what’s happening in the upstream watershed, including the Qu’Appelle lake chain. There are no shortcuts to restoring eco-system health.

Hutchinson expressed concern that there was “no government leadership” and called on government and First Nations to quickly resolve outstanding issues over control structures. He also raised concern that the non-governmental group established through the WSA, the Lower Qu’Appelle Watershed Stewards (LQWS) had set as its water quality objective only “to prevent a decline in quality from current levels”, which would mean accepting the high toxic algae that Pasqua residents experience in late summer.28

He also noted that in correspondence from the provincial Minister about “how priorities (were) established” in drought years, the Commission was told “Licensed users are accorded fist priority to water”.29 The Minister also said in “extreme drought years, lakes within the Qu’Appelle basin will fall below their desirable operating range for recreation”, which presumably means because industry will get first dibs. Water is still being treated as a property right, which does not abide by the United Nations’ view of water as a human right. Nor does this view respect treaty-based water rights.

John Mark Davies, researcher with the Water Security Agency (WSA) which monitors these lakes, reported that though nutrients in the system had “come down since the 1970s and 1980s”, they were “still high”. He said the WSA was starting to model the Qu’Appelle lakes to gain better predictive understanding to help manage the system. He acknowledged that Regina is a major source of nutrients but did not respond directly to questions raised earlier about the implications of growing industrial demand for water or about the need to seriously target lower levels of contamination. Along with keynote speaker Wasier, Davies advocated careful monitoring and setting achievable targets as one means to enhance water quality.

Another panelist, Duane Mohn, who has worked with wetlands protection, reminded us that water was excluded from the NAFTA agreement with the U.S. and that there were still water diversion plans “on the table”. He raised concerns about agricultural practices that degrade waterways, noting that he knew examples where property rights (“my land”) was used as an excuse to dump leftover farm chemicals into local sloughs. Mohn called for a “buffer zone” to protect Saskatchewan waterways and noted the importance of the Indian Head tree nursery, which Harper had already closed down, for reducing erosion and enhancing biodiversity, which also protects water quality. He also called for public access strips along shorelines, such as exist elsewhere, to help protect lake fronts from overdevelopment.

The last panelist, Jessica Gordon arrived late from a long trip and a workshop was organized to discuss how Idle No More activities relate to the protection of water. Event organizers failed to get a spokesperson from the newly formed LQWS, but people attended from the Saskatchewan Associations of Watersheds (SAW), Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) and the Regina Water Watch citizens group organizing to keep water treatment in public hands. This was likely one of the most diverse gatherings to date in rural Saskatchewan on protecting water quality. The Fort Qu’Appelle KAIROS coordinated some follow-up and established its own Water Research Group which has completed its own 18-page report, entitled Kairos Lower Qu’Appelle Watershed Action Plan.

Since then other initiatives have been taken to protect the Qu’Appelle watershed. Standing Buffalo First Nations sponsored a panel on water quality at its 2013 winter festival. On August 20, 2014, in the aftermath of the summer flooding and lake contamination, the Friends of Katepwa Provincial Park and the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council jointly organized a public forum at the Treaty Four Centre. This may prove to be a turning point in public mobilization to protect the Qu’Appelle watershed.

VII. A PRAIRIE-WIDE CALAMITY

The industrial-agricultural contaminants and Regina’s poorly treated sewage degrading the Qu’Appelle watershed are a microcosm of a much larger, more devastating trend on the prairies. Waterways in southern Saskatchewan are part of the huge Lake Winnipeg drainage basin which covers one million square miles stretching across the three Prairie Provinces, part of Ontario and four U.S. states.  What’s happening downstream from Regina’s sewage is happening on a more massive scale further downstream, as more pollutants from the vast Great Plains Basin go into Lake Winnipeg.

LAKE WINNIPEG

Lake Winnipeg is the 10th largest freshwater lake on earth, but it’s now better known as the most chlorophyll-polluted lake on the planet. Massive algae blooms, covering up to 15,000 square km, now “strangle” Lake Winnipeg. These have increased by up to 500% since 1900. The eutrophication degrades aquatic biodiversity and creates deadly blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) which has increased a thousand-fold just since the 1990s. Canada is not just getting a bad environmental reputation for Harper’s inaction on climate change and the tarsands; Lake Winnipeg is among the most ecologically-compromised of the world’s great freshwater lakes.30

This has resulted from fast, vast transformations in prairie land uses. This is extreme in Alberta, the upper headwaters of the Lake Winnipeg basin, where we see resource “productivity” threatening the carrying capacity of the land. According to Robert Sanford, writing about “An Unexpected Water Crisis31, each year Alberta produces 2 million head of cattle, 3 million swine and 120 million kg of poultry. Add to this 35 million tonnes of crops and 25 million cubic metres of timber. Then there are 160 million cubic metres of natural gas, 80 million of bitumen and 35 million of conventional oil, and 35 million tonnes of coal. Alberta also produces up to 1,500 petajoules of electricity annually.

All of this production exploits and degrades water. What Harper’s government presents as the model for Canadian “jobs and growth” is actually a recipe for the quick ecological and social decline of the West.  And such agricultural, industrial and urban contamination is expanding throughout the Lake Winnipeg drainage basin, including within Saskatchewan, which some now call the “new Alberta”, as the Sask Party opens up the province for toxic resource extraction. At least Alberta’s big cities have upgraded their sewage treatment. Regina has not!

The U.S.’s National Academy of Science has chronicled how “land-cover changes” such as deforestation, wetland destruction, urban expansion and engineering of the landscape through irrigation and water diversion are increasing the intensity of flooding and droughts. Roy Pomeroy’s work shows that this is happening in southern Saskatchewan. Such unsustainable processes are advancing everywhere on the prairies; up to 90% of the wetlands in the Lake Winnipeg basin have been drained. Netley Marsh, which used to cover 75 square km, is increasingly flooded, though Manitoba Hydro denies that this is deliberately done to keep water high to generate electricity. Wetlands act as sinks for nutrients like nitrogen and naturally purify run-off water; they provide a priceless ecological function (“service”) that is given little or no value in the uncaring quest for short-term economic growth.

We can’t continue abusing the land, atmosphere and oceans without ecological blowback. Thankfully recent polling shows that only 2 % of Canadians are now all-out climate change deniers. Some of them must be in the provincial or federal cabinets, for their decision-making regarding water or energy doesn’t incorporate climate science. This knowledge needs to sink in quickly. From 1948-2007 the mean temperature in Canada increased by 1.3 degrees C and it continues to rise. Our area of the country is wetter than in the 1950s and heavy rainfalls occur much more frequently. The intensity and damage from more frequent and intense thunderstorms, such as we’ve seen over recent summers, are getting more like coastal hurricanes. The Arctic melt is occurring faster than in previous “worst case” scenarios. And, are we ready for more intense droughts and forest and grass fires?

Three-quarters of natural disasters involve the cycles of evaporation, condensation and precipitation that perpetually occur on this ocean-covered planet. We are already facing increased uncertainty about how these hydrological systems affect the prairies. Forecasts about the water volume in Lake Diefenbaker and the Qu’Appelle and Saskatchewan Rivers weren’t very predictive before the 2011 flood. This flooding flushed an unprecedented amount of contaminants and algae nutrients into the Lake Winnipeg basin; urban and cottage sewage, excrement from livestock and wildlife and massive amounts of agricultural chemicals went into the drainage system. Then it happened again in the summer of 2014. If we want our grandchildren to swim in these lakes we’d better get our collective act together, and soon!

ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS

Hydrological instability is now staring us in the face. The capacity of the atmosphere to hold water goes up with rising temperatures, which mostly come with increasing carbon pollution of the atmosphere from the fossil-fuel based corporate economy. There is about a 7% increase in water-holding capacity with each one C degree increase. Global warming will bring rains of longer duration and greater intensity, a pattern we already see here as elsewhere.

Climate scientists now talk of “atmospheric rivers”; massive currents of water contained by warming air that can dwarf the continental river systems lying below.  When these overflow their “cloud banks” they flood river banks below on the magnitude we saw in Pakistan and Australia in 2010. Such unprecedented flooding carries on, somewhere, on this increasingly stressed planet 

Meanwhile, we waste and over-consume water in comparison to other countries, other than the U.S. Many people elsewhere consume only the amount of water daily that we use in one toilet flushing. But our emerging water crisis comes from something more systemic. The widespread view that we have unlimited water for our relatively low population is purely deceptive; Canada is already exploiting most surface waters and is mindlessly exploiting groundwater without adequate knowledge or concern for future generations. Widespread fracking in the Prairie Provinces poses a threat to long-term water security.32 And what is happening to Lake Winnipeg is already a huge “wake up call”. We simply must listen.

Facing these new economically-rooted, ecologically realities and challenges is what sustainability is all about. We must preserve and restore natural systems that provide priceless eco-system “services”. Achieving more hydrological predictability depends on it. This means halting wetland drainage, no matter how small, and shifting to more ecologically-resilient and protective agriculture. It means quickly shifting to renewable energy that doesn’t further degrade the landscape and contaminate waterways and the atmosphere. It means restoring lakes, large and small, from Lake Winnipeg to Saskatchewan’s Pasqua Lake, that are “being strangled” by industrial and urban pollutants.

There are success stories. Lake Constance, straddling three European countries, was restored over 30 years at a cost of $2 billion. This primarily required reducing agricultural run-off and improving standards and practices for urban waste water treatment. Does this sound familiar? It should, for it’s exactly what is so urgently needed in Saskatchewan. Again I ask: just how can the province justify an $80 million grant to Regina for a new stadium while providing nothing for the city to upgrade its sewage treatment? 

Restoring the ecological health of Lake Winnipeg will be a much larger national challenge, for it is 45 times bigger than Lake Constance, but we must get on with it. Harper’s hostility towards science and his environmental cuts and deregulation won’t help! We have to find a way to get past this counter-productive politics of denial.

We are slowly learning how past economic systems degraded regional natural systems which in turn brought devastation to social and cultural systems.  For the first time in human evolution this process is occurring on a global as well as regional scale. When we look at how we use and treat water on the prairies, and what has happened to Lake Winnipeg,  we see that regardless of the party in power, “business as usual” is neither viable nor acceptable. What is happening to the water and how it is responding is becoming our great teacher. Let us all learn and learn quickly.

(Endnotes)

1 This booklet is a rewrite of several columns first printed by R-Town News and available at: http://www.crowsnestecology.wordpress. com

2  See P.R. Leavitt et al, “Landscape-scale effects of urban nitrogen on a chain of freshwater lakes in central North America”, Limnol Oceanogr 51(5), 2006, 2262-2777.

3 In its 2012 budget the City only budgeted $19.6 million for wastewater upgrades. The costs of the upgraded plant were initially set at $224 million but the latest City estimate from EPCOR is $181 million. Don’t hold your breath.

4  See “City Stadium Contribution Up By $12.4M”, Regina Leader Post, July 7, 2012.

5  Buffalo Pound Water Administration Board, 2012 Annual Report, p. 13.

6 All remaining quotes in Section II are from City Water and Sewer Utility Budget, 2013, pp. 29-33.

7 THMs are byproducts of algae and chlorine. Guidelines were established in 1993 and since then epidemiological research has found associations with “bladder and colon cancer and adverse pregnancy outcomes”.

8  Should this admission in 2013 that Regina’s “lagoons are overloaded” make the City liable for damages to the Qu’Appelle watershed from its dumping of untreated sewage from June 26 to July 7, 2014?

9 See Globe and Mail story, Oct. 14, 2012.

10  Hugh Mackenzie, Flushing money away: Why the Privatization of the Wastewater Treatment Plant is a bad idea, May 6, 2013.

11  Edmonton-based EPCOR, which also acquires and operates private utilities in the U.S., got the final Regina P3 contract.

12 See Regina Leader Post, Sept. 10, 2013.

13 Water Security Agency, 2013 Spring Runoff Outlook Based on Conditions as of March 5, 2013.

14 In 1979 the Boundary and Cookson Reservoirs reached their historical highs of 561.15 and 753.35 meters. In 1985 Jackfish Lake had its historical peak of 530 meters. Anglin Lake had its historical extreme of 515.84 meters in 1994 and in 1997 Reindeer Lake reached its recorded historic high of 336.8 meters, but this came after summer downpours.  In the spring runoff of 2007, Wakaw Lake reached its highest level of 509.9 meters and in 2010 Good Spirit Lake reached its historical extreme of 485.68 meters, again from summer downpours.

15 Patrick Boyle was the spokesperson for the WSA. See “City Must Clean Up Its Act”, Regina Leader Post, July 23, 2014, p. A1.

16  Letter from Fougere, July 25, 2014.

17  Some estimates however go as high as 30%.

18 Sometimes in the winter nearly 100% of the Wascana flow is from Regina’s releases.

19  Some Regina wastewater bypassed phosphorous treatment from June 26 to July 7th. Also screened but untreated wastewater was dumped from June 29th to July 3rd.  See Regina Leader Post, July 23, 2014.

20  I personally inspected the Fort Qu’Appelle lagoon on Aug. 6, 2014 and though I witnessed four places where Sask Water had clearly fixed breaches probably resulting from the flooding, there was no indication that any leaks got as far as the lakes.

21  John Pomeroy et al, Improving and Testing the Prairie Hydrological Model at Smith Creek Research Basin, Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, no date.

22 Pesticides Contaminating Prairie Wetlands, CBC News, Jan. 8, 2014.

23 This ultimately relates to Harper’s abolition of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

24 An ecumenical inter-denominational group.

25 Marley Waiser et al, Effluent-Dominated Streams Part 2: Presence and Possible Effects of Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products in Wascana Creek, Saskatchewan, Canada, Environment Canada, no date.

26 Summit on Water and Industry, FHQTC, March 19, 2012.

27 See Sask Power: Preliminary Citing of a Nuclear Power Plant, May, 2008 and discussion of this in J. Harding, The Nuclear Way: A Close Look at Bruce Power’s Mega-Plan for Saskatchewan, Dec. 2009.

28 Lower Qu’Appelle River Watershed Plan, Water Security Agency, March 2013, p. 20.

29 Letter to CLDPC from Minister Cheveldayoff, April 5, 2013.

30 See “Save My Lake” online at CBC’s “The Nature of Things”.

31 Robert Sanford, An Unexpected Water Crisis, Literary Review of Canada, Sept. 2012.

32 See my articles on fracking at: www.crowsnestecology.wordpress.com

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Ecology, Government, Human Impact, Sustainability and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.