The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (now the Water Security Agency) has launched a watershed and aquifer planning process for the Swift Current Creek Watershed.
The Swift Current Creek Watershed is located in southwest Saskatchewan and is part of the South Saskatchewan River basin. For planning purposes, a portion of the Old Wives Lake watershed has been included to reflect those areas which are affected by irrigation waters from the Swift Current Creek.
The Water Security Agency partnered with the Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards Inc. in the production of the watershed production plan. The Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards Inc. is a primarily volunteer, not-for-profit corporation formed by local people in the Swift Current Creek and Rush Lake Creek Watersheds. The mission of the Stewards is to enhance water quality and stream health of the Swift Current Creek Watershed by promoting awareness and understanding among water users.
The planning process brought together local leaders from municipal governments and various non-government organizations, working in partnership as members of Watershed Advisory Committees to protect and secure source water to ensure present and future safe drinking water needs are met. A Technical Committee made up of natural resource experts from the Water Security Agecny, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, and Ministry of Energy and Resources were assembled to support the work of the Watershed Advisory Committee.
At the conclusion of the planning process, the committee released the Swift Current Creek Source Water Protection Plan. This action plan is based on the water protection priorities that have been identified by people living in the watershed. It provides a clear indication of what needs to be done and by whom, and specifies realistic and acceptable timelines for these actions to be completed.
In 2007 the SCCWS in co-operation with Water Security Agency (WSA), formerly the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (SWA), started consultations to complete the Swift Current Creek Watershed Water Protection Plan (the Plan). The plan was released in 2009 and contained 62 Key Actions to improve water quality and watershed health. This document continues to be the basis by which the SCCWS sets its yearly work plan as a condition of receiving funding from the WSA to see the actions in the plan completed.
The 2009 Watershed Protection Plan process started with the formation of a Watershed Advisory Committee (WAC) made up of representatives from both the Swift Current Creek Watershed and Rush Lake Creek Sub-basin. These representatives were from stakeholder organizations such as Rural Municipalities (RMs), towns, the City of Swift Current and other organizations invested in water quality and quantity. Meetings were held to provide background information about the community based planning model and the role of the planner and stakeholders in creation of the plan. A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) comprised of representatives of agencies involved in water resource management was created to work alongside the WAC. The TAC provided expertise about surface and ground water management, water quality monitoring, in stream flows, agriculture, climate change and environmental programming, and regulation of the energy industry. The SWA watershed planners working with the TAC prepared a background report to provide information on the watershed’s physical and ecological characteristics, surface and ground water resources, state of the watershed report and current management characteristics.
After a tour of the watershed, the committees met to discuss issues impacting watershed health and then developed action items to address these issues. There were four meetings between December 2008 and April 2009 to develop the Plan. The report contained sixty-two key action items, each detailed under Specific Planning Objectives, Recommendations and Key Action. In the report each recommendation and key action has information listed detailing context and background, time frame of implementation and lead agency and other agencies responsible for completion of the action.
In the fall of the 2018 the SCCWS board and staff completed a Strategic Plan. Resulting recommendations in the Strategic Plan included bringing stakeholders together to:
• Determine what they see as the current issues of water quality and watershed health.
• Assess completeness of the action items in the Watershed Protection Plan.
• Identify actions that are still relevant to the SCCWS, and
• Add new actions, as needed.
To accomplish this, the SCCWS met with stakeholders on October 29th, 2019. Stakeholders included municipalities, government departments, non-governmental organizations and industries that have a vested interest in the watershed. The SCCWS also invited representatives from groups that had been involved with the completion of the 2009 Plan and those that the SCCWS has worked with or have provided funding to the SCCWS to complete projects in the past 3 years.
The SCCWS provided an updated background report to all meeting attendees to describe the physical environment, demographics and industries of the watershed. This report also included descriptions of the changes to the physical environment, demographics and industries in the SCCWS in the ten years since the release of the Plan. The SCCWS provided its evaluation of completion of Key Actions in the Plan. A report outlining the projects completed by the SCCWS in the past five years was also sent to attendees. These reports allowed meeting attendees to determine their own evaluation of completion of items in the Plan as well as the relevance of the items to the work of the SCCWS and the realities of water quality and watershed health today. Attendees were sent a survey to rank the issues that have emerged in the last ten years as to their impact on water quality and watershed health. This survey also asked attendees to rank initiatives and projects of the SCCWS as to the importance of each to the attendee’s organization.
At the stakeholder meeting, presentations were made about the history of the SCCWS, projects that it has undertaken, the history and evolution of the SCCWS’s involvement in Agri-Environmental Programming and WSA’s perspective on the history of watershed planning, the evaluation and direction setting process and what outcomes it expects from the process the SCCWS is undertaking.
After these presentations, there was a facilitated discussion about the progress and relevance of the 62 Key Actions in the Plan. The facilitator introduced each action, gave a brief description and the evaluation by the SCCWS. Once discussion was completed for an item, the process was repeated for the next action until all 62 actions were discussed. Once the evaluation of the Plan was completed, the results of the survey were released to attendees, who then discussed each of the questions in the survey in the same manner as the action items in the 2009 plan. From these discussions, meeting attendees agreed on three priority issues that the SCCWS should focus in as it sets its Future Direction
• Impacts of agriculture - including the potential effects of crop and livestock production on water quality and quantity, and watershed health and how the SCCWS can work with producers and industry to eliminate or mitigate these impacts.
• Impacts of extreme climate events - how they are managed to maximize water resources for all stakeholders, education about these events and the steps stakeholders can take to adapt to climate change and manage their own water resources.
• Impact of Invasive species on water quality and watershed health - this includes both aquatic species as well as invasive plants. The SCCWS will aim to educate and work with stakeholders and the public to stop or limit the spread of these species.
To assist the SCCWS as it sets its future direction a Technical Committee was assembled. These committee members possess a wide range of technical expertise in water and land management and represent various industries, government departments and the City of Swift Current. The Technical Committee reviewed each of the 62 Key Actions in the 2009 Plan to determine if the Action pertains to one or more of those areas of concern. This process also identified which of the action items could be set aside or parked as they are not relevant at this time or are not in the mandate of the SCCWS. In addition, several action items that did not pertain to these priority areas but were important to the work of the SCCWS were identified to be a part of the ongoing communications strategy of the SCCWS. Once this process was completed, the Technical Committee reviewed the remaining action items to create the Action Items that are in this Future Direction Report. Some of the items from the original plan remain, some action items were amalgamated into one item, and new action items were added.
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