Water is a universal necessity that every living thing needs in order to survive. It is also one of the most destructive elements on the planet, too much and things begin to drown, and erode away. Too little, and the Earth itself begins to crack at the surface. Over the years, our planet has become accustomed to the varying amounts of water it receives on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. Allowing certain flora and fauna to adapt to this varying amounts of water and create vast ecosystems. These different ecosystems, also have a varying degree of water quality, temperature, and ph. Some bodies of water are pristine and are completely clear, while others are often a murky brown filled with rich nutrients. Slight changes in temperature, or ph can be catastrophic to water ecosystems.
Alberta, being a prairie province, is no stranger to droughts. Being in the prairies, its only natural to have a drought every couple decades. A cycle that organisms have adapted too. Yet when these droughts begin to happen more frequently and last longer, animals and plants are unable to adapt and ultimately die.
There are 7 Major watersheds/basins In Alberta: Hay River basin, Peace/Slave river basin, Athabasca river basin, Beaver river basin, North Saskatchewan river basin, South Saskatchewan river basin, and the milk river basin. All of which do not have better than a 'fair' water quality rating. In fact, all of the major watersheds and basins in Canada do not have a 'good' water quality rating but rather, are listed as 'fair' or 'poor'.
The water basin that runs through our city is the South Saskatchewan river basin. Otherwise known as the 'lifeblood of the prairies'. Which when taken all together is stated to have very high levels of threat to its health. Pollution is listed as 'very high', with most coming from agricultural runoff and industrial buildings. Curtains parts of this basin are also affected by pipeline leaks and spills. The vast construction of dams, railroads, and roads, make its over all habitat fragmentation level as 'high.' The greatest threat to this basin is habitat loss. Stemming from the expansion of cities and the development of land for agriculture.
In the end, just for this basin the threats of:
Overuse of water
Are all listed as 'high'. Which isn't very good for a basin called the 'lifeblood of the prairies'. The Bow river, part of the South Saskatchewan river basin, runs straight through our city. Its overall rating is higher than that of the whole basin, but can still be greatly improved upon.
Bow River stats:
Pollution: Very high
Habitat loss: Moderate
Habitat fragmentation: Very high
Overuse of water: Very high
Invasive species: Moderate
Climate Change: Moderate
Water flow: Poor
General: In fair health
59% of 838 million cubic meters of water used in 2010 in Alberta for agriculture.
In Calgary, the average person uses 7,000 liters of water a month, or 1,392,609 liters per year, just for one person. If you multiply that by the approximate population of Calgary, that is 116,976,156,000 liters or 30,901,831,207.486 gallons of water used every year in Calgary alone. Most of which is taken up from groundwater.
Beef, Alberta's number one agricultural export, (we have 41% of the total amount of beef cattle in Canada) takes up to 441 gallons of water on average to produce only one pound of boneless beef. In 2014, 3 billion pounds of beef was produced in Canada. Which is 1,323,000,000,000 gallons of water! Though keep in mind that most of the water is recycled and used again. Since beef is our number one agricultural output, cutting down on eating beef, or not eating it all together majorly affects our province and in the end it will come and affect us.
Agriculture as a whole, takes up a lot of water even if you're not raising livestock. In 2010, 838 million cubic meters of water was used to sustain agriculture across Canada, 59% of that was solely used in Alberta. Alberta currently has 13 irrigation districts. A number that is suspected to rise in coming years.
Oil and gas production, another one of Alberta's major exports also uses a ton of freshwater. Around 100 Olympic sized swimming pools of water a year for 10,000 bpd oil development. Yet, again most of this water is reused.
Canada is home to 20% of the worlds freshwater. 2.2% of that is located in Alberta. With 90% of the glaciers in the Alberta Rockies expected to vanish by 2100, and an ever growing population and agricultural sector, water scarcity is going to become a huge concern.
The Bow river is directly fed by the Bow glacier, if the glacier is gone then so is the bow. A river that is a major part of the lifeblood of the prairies. Not only will we as people be affected, but animals and plants across our nation will be too.
Overall, when looking into Canada's water health, most of the sites simply stated that they can't confidently report Canada's water health due to lack of monitoring and data.
Which is pretty pathetic since we need these watersheds to survive.