Planning For Tomorrow: Addressing 21st Century Municipal Water Challenges


The Red Deer River Watershed Alliance (RDRWA) and the Red Deer River Municipal Users Group (RDRMUG) teamed up to co-host our fall forum ‘Planning For Tomorrow: Addressing 21st Century Municipal Water Challenges’ in Sundre on November 6th.

Within the Red Deer River watershed, many of our 55 partner urban municipalities and 18 rural municipalities are facing a convergence of pressures around how they deal with land and water-related challenges, and the ongoing need to deliver core municipal services, while at the same time being called upon to address these and other complex challenges. 

Planning For Tomorrow brought together over 50 municipal leaders and staff to explore innovative ways to better integrate land and water considerations to align with the Modernized MGA, and municipal statutory planning.

The forum kicked off with greetings from the Honourable Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks, which were delivered by Minister Nixon’s constituency manager Charlene Preston; as well as welcoming remarks from Town of Sundre Mayor Terry Leslie, and RDRWA and RDRMUG Executive Directors Jeff Hanger and Keith Ryder.

The morning session featured presentations from:

Jaime Graves, with the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) who spoke about regional growth management challenges, and the need to balance growth with responsible land use and water stewardship within the CMRB.

Jocelyn Thrasher-Haug highlighted Strathcona County’s leadership around municipal wetland policy, conservation and land use, and profiled the updated North American Waterfowl Management Plan Partnership (NAWMP) ‘Guide to Making Wetlands Work in Your Municipality’(2019), which features case studies and practical examples to assist municipalities with sound wetland decision-making.

Suzanne Marechal and Katelyn Ceh of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) spoke about the joint RDRWA/NCC project to map Hydrologically Significant Areas (HSA’s) across the entire Red Deer River watershed. The HSA mapping products are intended to serve as a decision support tool to help municipalities better prioritize lands that may be suitable for conservation, and will be available in early 2020.

Bill Shaw showcased the Red Deer River Municipal Users Group’s recent review of statutory plans in the Red Deer region and some leading municipalities across North America, and found that in central Alberta no plan recognizes link between land use and source water protection and only a few address water as a natural asset. RDRMUG has developed a report and guide to ‘Integrating Source Water Protection and Watershed Conservation into Municipal Planning ’ that municipalities can access as a resource.

The afternoon featured a lively and informative panel discussion on the topic of “How can we better embed water/watershed considerations in municipal planning and operations?”, moderated by Rick Anderson of Synergy Alberta.

Our panelists included Councillor Tanya Thorn, Town of Okotoks; Jason Unger, Executive Director of the Environmental Law Centre; Phil Boehme, Planner with Alberta Environment and Parks; as well as Jaime Graves and Jocelyn Thrasher-Haug. Each provided thought-provoking and informative responses to questions posed by Rick and the audience, which ranged from queries around the benefits for municipalities when it comes to integrating natural assets in planning and operations to exploring what the most pressing challenges are for municipalities when it comes to water and allocation of water resources.

Thank you to everyone who took time to attend the fall forum! We loved hearing such engaging and thoughtful questions and discussions from our presenters, panelists and attendees throughout the day and were thankful to have representation from over 20 municipalities!

Once again, a very huge and heartfelt thank you to Associated Engineering, the Town of Sundre and our co-hosts Red Deer River Municipal Users Group for your sponsorship of our fall forum in Sundre! Your support is invaluable!

Stay tuned- we will be posting PowerPoints and other updates from the forum very soon on



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