What we heard from you about the Kettle River Watershed

Last fall the RDKB launched an in-depth survey and held multiple meetings to learn more about watershed issues and how they are affecting communities in the Boundary region.

The response was overwhelming.

Over 670 people responded, with many writing hundreds of words about watershed issues and concerns. I spent weeks entering the responses, and weeks more poring over the results to extract the key themes and main issues. Here are some of the highlights.

Nelson Jatel from Okanagan Basin Water Board helps a group of participants through "social network mapping" at the October 12 Special Meeting, "Rethinking our Water Ways." Credit Pat Kelly, Boundary Creek Times
Nelson Jatel from the Okanagan Basin Water Board (right) helps a group of participants through “social network mapping” at the October 12 Special Meeting, “Rethinking our Water Ways.” Credit Pat Kelly, Boundary Creek Times.

Respondents clearly understand how vital water is to meet their needs for quality of life, economic opportunities, and assurance of healthy ecosystems. Residents overwhelmingly feel that the Kettle River and its tributaries are very important to both their quality of life and economy in their communities.

The most valued uses of water are household use, followed by ecosystem and quality of life values such as fish and wildlife habitat, enjoyment, swimming, paddling, and amenity value. We summarized the values and aspirations of residents with the following draft outcomes and goals.

  • Healthy aquatic ecosystems means a) adequate flow & water levels to sustain aquatic life; b) good water quality to sustain aquatic life; and c) high habitat quality in wetlands, riparian areas and associated uplands, supporting biodiversity & aquatic life.
  • Safe & secure water supporting healthy communities means: a) safety and security of drinking water; b) abundant opportunities for safe water-based recreation and quality leisure activities; c) abundant opportunities for enjoyment and expression of spiritual, cultural, heritage and aesthetic values.
  • Reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy means: a) adequate water quality for current and future uses; and b) adequate, secure water supplies for sustainable levels of use.

These statements will help the Stakeholder Advisory Group develop recommendations that truly reflect public interests and values, and help other planning initiatives consider public values in the Kettle River watershed.

Another key purpose of the survey was to identify watershed issues and understand how they affect people’s needs and values of water across the region.

The highest level of concern was around the reliability of water supplies and the impacts of wastewater and stormwater on surface water quality. Residents were particularly concerned with how water use, pollution, and agricultural practices related to declining surface water quality, unreliable flows or water levels, and the degradation of aquatic ecosystems.

Survey respondents and meeting participants provided in-depth commentary on the causes and effects of watershed issues. They also gave solutions to many of these issues:

I regularly use the river for fishing and on every occasion… I remove bags of bottles, plastics, and other discarded items. There needs to be educational promotion… and regularly put resources towards clean up.

Read the summary report and full results on our website at http://kettleriver.ca/what-we-heard. We are also opening a short survey that page to get your feedback on the outcomes and goals and ask for your vision for the future of the watershed..

On another note, Friday, March 22 is World Water Day. Raise a glass to celebrate clean, fresh water and healthy ecosystems (water.org).

[Originally published in the Grand Forks Gazette on March 20, 2013.]