Conservation district holds annual meeting


By Cindy Murray

The importance of water conservation was a key topic at Little Saskatchewan River Conservation District’s (LSRCD) annual general meeting in Basswood on Thursday, Feb. 12.

“I can farm around a pothole... I can’t farm around a drought!” said guest speaker Dr. Allan Preston of Hamiota, Prairie Improvement Network chairman

Addressing the crowd of 44, Preston discussed water management in the Assiniboine River Basin (ARB). As a farmer who lives and works along Arrow River, a tributary of Assiniboine, Preston wants to be sure to leave a legacy of sustainable rural life for his children and grandchildren. This would mean that agriculture, along with other entities, must collectively do a better job by working together in a regional approach to water management.

Preston went on to say that, "Water covers 71 per cent of the earth’s surface and it is vital for all forms of life. There is a clear correlation between access to safe water and gross domestic product per capita. By 2025 more than half of the world population will be facing water-based vulnerability, and by 2030 in some developing regions of the world, water demand will exceed supply by 50 per cent. Approximately 70 per cent of the fresh water used by humans goes to agriculture."

His concern is that water is taken for granted in Western Canada and that recent floods have dulled our memories of severe droughts.


"I fear that many of the lessons our forefathers learned in the ’30s regarding conservation and sustainability have been lost. History does have a way of repeating itself.” 


In an effort to help ensure this doesn’t happen, the province of Manitoba commissioned a study on the ARB in 2008 through the Red River Basin Commission (RRBC), which hosted meetings across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Dakota. A steering committee was struck, but because of the lack of political will, it didn’t go forward. However, in the fall of 2013 the Assiniboine River Basin Initiative (ARBI) was resurrected by Prairie Improvement Network, with the main goal to facilitate and support a co-ordinated approach to water-related issues in the basin.


Some of the draft goals and objectives are:


• To manage water flows in such a manner as to match the existing capacity of existing in-stream natural and man-made infrastructure;

• To reduce streambed flows by 20 per cent through the creation of smaller water storage/structures;

• To manage and reduce farmland drainage so as to not negatively impact downstream neighbours; and

• To work collaboratively with partners in Saskatchewan, North Dakota and Manitoba already engaged in basin water issues.


Several meetings have been held, one in Virden and another in Regina. LSRCD sent representatives to both meetings with a plan to continue to participate in the ARBI.


Preston ended his very interesting presentation with, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today. The same analogy applies to ARBI –the groundwork we are laying today will stand us in good stead for decades to come."


LSRCD manager Colleen Cuvelier followed up with an in-depth review of activities throughout the district, which encompasses the majority of the Little Saskatchewan River watershed and a portion of the Arrow-Oak River watershed, which are both part of the larger ARB.


Highlights include:


• Supporting Riding Mountain National Park’s (RMNP) application for Blue Flag status for the main beach at Clear Lake. To attain accreditation from the international program, RMNP has to meet criteria in four categories – environmental education and information, water quality, environmental management, and safety and services.

• Surface water management is very important in LSRCD watersheds, so when the provincial government introduced draft regulations related to drainage and water retention in the past year, the district sent representatives to a summer workshop and submitted comments on the proposed regulations.

•  In August the CD hosted Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord MacIntosh. Minister MacIntosh spent the day touring the district viewing several different projects the CD was involved in.

• The recent amalgamation of rural municipalities has had an effect on LSRCD. There are now fewer municipal partners — going from 14 to eight — which means larger financial support from the new amalgamated partners. There are also changes within the subdistricts in regards to the number of seats available as dictated by the Conservation Districts Act.

• The Crawley Dam, which was constructed in 2013, had a successful function in its first year of 2014.

• Beaver levellers were made available in 2014 which when installed correctly, will allow water to flow through a road culvert even when the beavers plug the mouth of that culvert. LSRCD partnered with Wildlife Branch to host a beaver management workshop last fall in Clanwilliam.

• Surface water management is more than just focusing on water, it is also looking at the soil and the effect water has on it. To help with that goal,  LSRCD rents out a zero till drill to landowners in the area; this year the drill sowed 215 acres.

• LSRCD was involved with Manitoba Wildlife Habitat Foundation. The foundation seeded 100 acres of native grass species on property they own in the Little Saskatchewan River watershed, and the CD contributed $5,000 to the project.

• Seven miles of shelterbelts, made up of just over 5,200 trees, were planted by the LSRCD crew in 2014. Black plastic mulch is put down around the trees to inhibit weed growth and retain moisture. Shelterbelts are effective in trapping snow in the winter and providing habitat for wildlife.

• LSRCD was successful is in obtaining funding from  Loblaw Water Fund and Lake Winnipeg Foundation for the purchase of a River Watch Kit. The kit is used to collect samples from rivers or lakes, recording flow, weather and water chemistry. Teachers and students have learned to use the kit within our watershed, and it was also used to collect data from Sandy Lake.

• An important job LSRCD performs is the sealing of abandoned wells. It is important to seal these unused wells because of the potential of the well to act as a conduit to ground water which could be contaminated, and of course the safety hazard possibility of an old well.


There are many more projects on the go; if you are interested visit the LSRCD web page at

Following Cuvelier’s presentation, various committee members were presented with service pins: five years, Larry Huculak; 10 years, Ron Budiwski, Larry Cardy, Ron Carr, Ray Frey, Dennis Pearson, Dennis Pedersen, Walter Sichewski, John Spaller; 15 years, Roy Greer, Ed MacKay, Gord Paddock, Evan Smith.