Water for Calgary

click Forest Index

waterClear-cut logging can cause increased runoff and flooding. This could affect the City of Calgary's water supply. 

The Elbow River watershed supplies almost half of Calgary's water. The watershed is essential to support the growing demand for clean water.

Under the Forest Management Agreement between Spray Lakes Sawmills and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, logging is the primary economic asset of Kananaskis. The cost of water treatment may out-weight the revenue generated by the forestry industry alone. Add to that, the lost jobs and businesses in the recreation and tourism industry and the economic equation just doesn't add up. New York City recognized this cost and bought their watershed.

Impacts of deforestation on water supply

Barren land left after a clear-cut does not hold water. Increased flooding results, stretching water filtration plants to the extent of their ability to cope with the sand and dirt in the water. Bigger plants have to be built. Nutrients and silt load the creeks and rivers, choking them off and allowing algae blooms to grow. This affects both the amount and quality of the water supply.

Mountain pine beetle threat

A diverse population of spruce, pine and aspen may be the only defence against massive forest losses.  Replanting with lodgepole pine exclusively, increases the risk of infestation and consequently increasing the risk to water supply, water quality and forest fires. Clearing massive areas of infected forests could have a disastrous effect on Calgary's water quality and quantity.

Forest fire risk

Thinning the forest and cutting fire breaks is one way to reduce the forest fire risk. Clear-cutting adds little additional protection. Studies indicate that the replanted and reclaimed sites provide all the fuel a fire needs to spread.

Other concerns

Climate change is a fact. The Spray Lakes plan doesn't take this into consideration. Calgary's water service is developing plans to deal with climate change, but their efforts may be in vain if the watershed upstream is significantly altered.

The City of Calgary was not consulted when the scope of the Detailed Forest Management Plan was developed. The plan does not address some of the concerns Calgary has over the effects of deforestation.

Additional logging in eastern Kananaskis will expose more rocky terrain. The impact of this may be greater than anticipated.

Spray Lakes will leave buffers of trees along water courses. Recent science shows that the size of these setbacks should consider slope, soil type, vegetation and riparian health. It's not clear if this has been done.

Further consultation and review is needed. The DFMP is being rushed to adoption.

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