A local group is reviewing their goals to create more awareness about the importance of the watershed and its impact on the community.
The Vermilion River Watershed Alliance (VRWA) is a non-profit created in 2012, and early this year the organization revisited its goals to establish how they could move forward with a variety of projects this year.
The VRWA covers 7,860 square kilometres and affects both urban and rural residents.
“In a watershed, we are all connected because we all live on land that is draining water into our water sources. We all rely on it for drinking water, agriculture, for recreational opportunities, or wildlife habitat,” said Michelle Gordy, VRWA watershed planning coordinator.
“It is important to consider the way we use our land, so that we are protecting the health of the water and its sustainability for future generations.”
Municipally appointed director, Greg Barr, was raised on a dairy farm and previously worked in commercial beef.
“When your cattle are out on pasture, you want them to have good drinking water, but water sources can get contaminated very easily,” said Barr.
“It’s not just rivers, but dugouts can also be fenced off and pumped to a safer spot with a trough. Cattle can also avoid slips or falls so there are a lot of reasons to get the water off-site.”
He said the run off in spring and rain in summer can contaminate the water with manure, chemical fertilizer or pesticides. A low cost option would be to not seed or spray right right up to the edge near a water source, but leave some grassland as a buffer between.
To avoid contamination and encourage healthy ecosystems, the VRWA works with landowners to create riparian restoration, flood mitigation, address bank erosion, or establish tree planting and eco-buffers. Their partners help alleviate some of the project costs which helps make it feasible for landowners.
The VRWA is also looking to expand its education.
Traditionally they partner with Cows and Fish to offer a riparian workshop where participants could learn plant types right from the field. Having an online webinar last year instead, Gordy said it lacked hands-on learning but was still successful because they were able to expand their reach and connect to more people.
They hope to continue a Stories of Stewardship session by sharing first-hand accounts of landowners on their projects through a video presentation and by moving to an online format.
“It will be more impactful for others to hear from those that have experienced the programs first hand,” said Barr.
In the future, the VRWA plans to work with more schools in the area – for example setting up hands-on experiences for high school students with the potential for them to administer water quality tests and bug examinations.
“The people upcoming up in agriculture or urban municipalities need to look at the value of a body of water,” said Barr.