Elk River Alliance shares research on Lizard and Alexander Creeks
Elk River watershed residents gathered at the Arts Station February 26 for a celebration of community-based water quality monitoring. Since 2011, locals have been gathering information using scientific methods about the health of Alexander Creek east of Sparwood and Lizard Creek up Cedar Valley near Fernie.
Forty people including municipal officials and staff, industry representatives, fly fishing guides, anglers, Streamkeeper volunteers, Wildsight and Elk River Alliance (ERA) members, and interested citizens, were eager to hear the results of the three years of research.
“The community was excited to hear about the results of this citizen science effort, knowing our greatest hope for a sustainable water future is working together at the local level,” said Lee-Anne Walker, executive director of ERA. “Understanding water science strengthens a community’s ability to participate in a conversation about our collective water values”.
Allie Dickhout, ERA program coordinator made a presentation of the results noting that, “the report is written with the goal of sharing information and supporting the public’s right to know about their water quality.The data is presented in a succinct format in order to be accessible to a broad range of individuals, ranging from interested citizens to civic leaders and biologists.”
Allie reminded the audience, “it is important to note that the data collected and shared in this report gives a snapshot of stream conditions and health. These aquatic environments are dynamic and ever changing. The true value of this data is establishing a baseline and seeing how it changes over the long-term.”
Following the presentation of the report results, there was an excellent discussion. Community members raised questions about perceived biases in other water quality monitoring. A few community members expressed the concern that it may be difficult for government and industry to remain objective in collecting water data when the results may influence election outcomes and shareholder interest. A noted local scientist expressed the challenge in teasing apart the numerous human and natural influences on water quality. Ideas for expanding ERA monitoring efforts included sharing water information amongst broader partners, expanding the program to Elkford’s Boivin Creek and looking at solutions to effects of storm-water discharge on water quality in the Elk River. Lastly, comments were made about the role of community-based water monitoring groups to be proactive in noticing changes in stream health and informing responsible authorities.
The evening recognized the 20 Streamkeeper volunteers who have taken the extensive training course and dedicated hundreds of hours monitoring these two creeks. Allie ended her presentation with the famous Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” The full Community-based Water Quality Monitoring Report can be viewed at www.elkriveralliance.ca.