Feb 012019

Return to INDEX


2007-03-25 Water: Lessons For Canada, Report 2, Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy

– – – – – – – – – – –

Rosenberg report to the Government of Alberta, February 2007.

The Rosenberg International Forum (California) was asked by Alberta Environment to evaluate its “Water for Life” strategy.

The final Report:     Alberta_Rosenberg_groundwater_report_final


A REPORT is useless if citizens

–   do not know of its existence

–   do not recognize its value

– do not do their own critical analysis of the Report (26 pages)

– don’t use it as a tool to assert protection of water resources over corporate and self-interests.


We are disempowered only if we don’t have information – as much and more information than the Government and the lobbyists.   Our numbers vastly exceed theirs.  Pass this along.  Empowered we are formidable.

I know very little in the whole scheme of things.  But WE know a lot, when we pool what we know.  That is all that I do.  Without the excellent input from the excellent people in our network I would be entirely ineffective and ignorant.  Somehow people recognize what I need to work with and send it along.  I obviously can’t work with everything, and overload is a problem.

I just have to thank you for being selective.  But please, don’t assume that I “already know it”, and on that basis hesitate to send in information.


–  Alberta can afford what other provinces / territories cannot.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t pick up their Reports and use them.  Think of it as an equalization payment in the form of information!

– “water scarcity” is understood in the Prairie provinces, and is a special concern in the face of climate change.  People in other parts of Canada tend not to be cognizant of the seriousness of the issue in the prairie context.


There is no need to replicate this Rosenberg Report.   It’s cheaper to just say “thanks” to Alberta!!   And play catch-up in different provinces.



1)  Apportionment – half for you, half for me.  Used in relation to water in rivers that flow cross boundary.

2)  Surface water – lakes, ponds, sloughs, rivers, etc.

3)  Ground water – water that is not on the surface of the land.  Includes water in soil and in underground streams and aquifers.  (What’s visible on the surface is duplicated below the surface.)

4)  Potable water – water that is fit, or suitable for drinking.




– I have made no attempt to identify ALL the connections.


CONNECTIONS, in order from the Report.



(Rosenberg says that the “Water for Life Strategy” relies heavily on one tool, water conservation, as the means for managing water scarcity.)

page 6, Recommendation:  “Portfolio should include water conservation, storage – both surface and ground, conjunctive use of ground and surface water, water re-use and other appropriate measures.”

I always chuckle when it is recommended that we “re-use” water, as if we don’t already.  The same water, the very same specific molecules, that flow through my body flowed through the body of a little boy visiting a Mayan temple, and through the body of a hippopotamus,  and through a person living in present-day Calgary (upstream of me), a number of cycles ago.  The water that is flushed down the toilet or that exits an industrial site in Calgary flows through me.  This water makes up a very large percentage of my body.

Earlier generations in India, an obvious example, understood their dependence on water.  Their religious or spiritual structure taught them to treat water as sacred.  The Ganges River is worshipped.

I am thankful that some of the previous generations revered the water.

In this context, the title of Alberta’s Report, “Water for Life” is encouraging.  The THOUGHT, at least, seems to be heading in the right direction, recognizing the relationship between life and water.

But in practice, we abuse and use water as a dumping place for toxic, invisible substances.  Many times we have presented the information to show that water treatment plants (from zero treatment, to primary, secondary and tertiary treatment) do not actually have the capability to remove many, if not most, chemicals (pharmaceuticals are chemicals that enter the water supply through urine) (agricultural chemicals enter the water supply through run-off)(industrial chemicals go down the drain, too).

With the thousands of additional chemicals that are pushed on us, there is no hope in hell that we are able to develop water treatment protocols to deal with existing, let alone the new ones.  (old-timers in our network know from the fight to get the use of  “vaporooter” stopped.  It’s on this web-site.)

We have so much goodness already, do we really need “more”?  If we effectively address PREVENTION, and PROTECTION, if we come to understand that WITHOUT CLEAN WATER we don’t survive, that some things ARE actually sacred, we can enter onto a “right” path.

I didn’t read all the Rosenberg Report and so I don’t know to what extent water quality is addressed.   The things we allow to happen to our water supply are, in my mind, criminal behaviour.  When a society takes potable water and, in gargantuan quantities, turns it into unpotable water (as the petroleum industry does with impunity),  we are digging the grave for future generations in this place.

In Saskatchewan, a large percentage of the population is dependent upon the water in the South and North Saskatchewan Rivers, through water storage (e.g. Buffalo Pound) and water pipelines that take the water to communities that are far from the Rivers.  We, like children and teen-agers,  need to understand that limits do exist.  That understanding is also critical to survival.

We have a lot of re-thinking to do about water and our relationship to it.



The Rosenberg Report (understandably) doesn’t mention the services of the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) in Saskatoon, SK.  Alberta Environment probably has some sort of relationship with the NWRI.  We SHOULD be aware of it.  http://www.nwri.ca/nwri-e.html    (INSERT:  2019: it is a shadow of its former self.  A “search” on this blog will turn up more.)

The NWRI, a publicly-funded Federal science institute,  has been a thorn in my side since the beginning when we were working on the proposed Meridian Dam on the South Sask River.  The NWRI employs a large majority of the water scientists in Canada.  5 years ago the number was 300;  I don’t know the current number.  Because individual provinces don’t have the resources to do their own research on water, the NWRI was established.  Its purpose is to provide the research and science to the Governments in Canada, so that sound decisions can be made.

Sounds good.  But the Director of the Saskatoon site, Fred Wrona, explained a long time ago that the Federal Minister of Environment is his boss.  The NWRI kowtows to political considerations.  They would not get involved in supplying information to the Consultants doing the study for the proposed dam, because it’s a political decision.   This position of the NWRI is not defensible.  When making decisions about Rivers, people need to understand some of the complexity of how Rivers function and the Rivers in the context of climate change.   (There is one other NWRI site in Canada, in Burlington ON).

Re: the Need for Understanding:  Just one example:  there is a naturally-occurring flow of ground water into a river:  the figure generally used is that 50% of the water in a River comes from ground water.  Joe Schmutz from our network explained that there is also a seasonal reverse flow from the River back, to help re-charge the ground water.  It happens when water levels in the River are high, as in spring flooding.  The pressure of the water in the River forces a flow that penetrates the River bank and pushes on out, away from the River.

In a situation of reduced precipitation (drought), there is less and less ground water for crops to draw upon.  And there is less and less water to feed the River.  Now add a large dam “to control spring flooding”.

Downstream from the dam you lose all the re-charge of ground water.   You can think of it like this:  humans talk of building water storage facilities.  But Nature supplies us, free-of-charge, with water storage facilities.  We don’t understand enough to be able to recognize them. …

During periods of high-flow, the River pushes its water into ground water storage.  During periods of low-flow, the water is released back into the River.  For free.

People in Saskatchewan should always remember the figure:  the amount of water in the South Saskatchewan River, measured at Saskatoon, is on average 20% of what it was in 1912.   Already.  Within 20 years, there will be no more summer-time feed of water from glacial melt in the Rocky Mountains because the glaciers will be gone.  They are already past “peak flow”, which is to say that the amount of water coming off the glaciers is already a dwindling amount every year.  Because of the shrinkage in the volume of ice.

Increasing amounts of exposed water will be lost to evaporation.

We need to be very careful in what we are doing.  The decisions we make, as a society MUST be based on sound scientific information.  We must not tolerate foolish, uninformed political decisions based on ignorance and self-interest.

I have challenged Fred Wrona in public about the non-involvement of the NWRI.  Fred is Director of this facility (NWRI) in Saskatoon, SK but he has retired – oops! – moved to Vancouver Island.  There are excellent people at the NWRI.  It is extremely unfortunate that leadership is lacking.  There isn’t the participation of the NWRI “in the field” that there should be.

The publicly-funded research institutions on water in other countries are very active in communities – according to a presenter from Australia at one of the water conferences.

Look at the water problems on First Nations Reservations.  The high levels of disease associated with polluted water.  Engineering companies that receive large amounts of Government money to install ineffective large-scale water treatment facilities on the reserves.  When smaller, less expensive plants are possible and that use more biological-based water treatment.

(Refer to the Safe Drinking Water Foundation’s work.)  It has not been the NWRI that is out there solving the problems.  It is small, motivated individuals on shoe-string budgets.

Citizens should demand that the services of the NWRI be used by Governments and in our communities.  We are paying the salaries and overhead.



Read what the  Rosenberg report to the Government of Alberta has to say about the Alberta Water Council (below).  But first, by way of background, a bit about the Saskatchewan Water Council.

One is a clone of the other, as far as I can see.  I have heard the principals behind the Saskatchewan Water Council refer to the Alberta Water Council.

The Saskatchewan Water Council sounds good.  But it’s really just a fabrication of Agrivision Corporation. In our network we have talked about “industry fronts”, especially in the chemical-biotech arena.  The primary lobby machine for the industry is “CropLife Canada”.  It sets up an industry front called “The Toronto Environmental Coalition”.  The “Environmental Coalition” is nothing more than a web-site and phone number for CropLife, but under which press releases go out, to tell the public about the goodness of the chemicals.  The Saskatchewan Water Council, in similar fashion, is a front for business interests in water.

Agrivision President Red Williams, at the “Drought-Proofing the Economy” conference in Regina a couple of years ago, named his buddy at Agrivision, Wayne Clifton (Engineering Company) to be President of the Sask Water Council.  For a long time it was nothing more than one piece of paper talking about a Sask Water Council.  It has evolved somewhat to now be a group of people with business interests.

From earlier emails,  Agrivision Corporation is, to date, playing a large role in the High Gate dam project.

  1. How current is Agrivision?

Look at page x (roman numeral 10) of the Executive Summary of the Report, “Water Wealth, a 50-year Water Development Plan for Saskatchewan, November 4, 2004. Prepared for Saskatchewan Agrivision Incorp, by Clifton Associates.

(Wayne Clifton is a principal of Agrivision along with Red Williams and Al Scholz. His company, Clifton Associates does engineering work related to “water development” projects.). The Report is prepared through funding by Ag and Ag Food Canada. The map title: “Map B, Potential Dams and Diversions in Saskatchewan”.

This Map B in Agrivision’s 50-year Plan for Saskatchewan is dated 1972. …??”   We tax-payers are paying for research that is a repetition of research written 35 years ago?

That’s a sampling of the picture on the “Saskatchewan Water Council”.  Think Alberta Water Council.  Now here’s what Rosenberg writes under “GOVERNANCE”:

Page 8  ” … It is not yet entirely clear what the relationship of the Alberta Water Council is to the Watershed Councils and to the stewardship groups … ” .

I’d say that Rosenberg is astute.  This is a polite way of “outing” these people, the “Alberta Water Council”.


I hope that people in Alberta will insist that the Government boot the Alberta Water Council out.  The paragraph leading up to this statement states the problem if “narrow, private interests” prevail.  Neither in Alberta or Saskatchewan, should the so-called “Water Councils” be allowed to insinuate themselves and their interests into Government.

(note:  The Deputy Minister of Agriculture used to be on the Board of Directors of Agrivision Corporation (SAC Inc. – Sask Agrivision Corporation, Inc).  Perhaps because we drew it to attention so many times to so many people, making the conflict-of-interest known, there appears to have been a major re-structuring.  There is now a small board with no deputy ministers.

(No Longer Valid  http://www.agrivision.ca/investors.htm)

But there are “Partner Investors”.   It is so incestuous and full of conflicts-of-interest.  In a later update on the High Gate Dam proposal for the North Saskatchewan River (the Government disavows responsibility for the preliminary feasibility study and associated process)  you will see the role of accounting firm Myers Norris Penny, a Partner Investor in Agrivision.

Agrivision is the original Corporation behind the proposed High Gate group assembled in North Battleford near where the dam would be.  Myers Norris Penny does the “public consultations”.)

The need to boot-out applies equally to Agrivision Corporation, working with public money.  It is these vehicles that enable Governments to make decisions that are based NOT on scientific research and public input.  The great value of (healthy) democratic government is to protect that upon which we and future generations are dependent for our survival, against the human failure of self-interest (greed).

All citizens need to understand:  THERE ARE NO STAKEHOLDERS when it comes to water.  Only a shared, individual need by all life forms for water.

Whenever ANYONE puts forth the idea that there are stakeholder (as in a “stake” for ownership in a gold rush), we must individually speak up and challenge the idea.  It is not right or sound.   There WILL BE stakeholder interests, IF we don’t challenge the thinking.

Saskatchewanians can use the Rosenberg Report to get business interests ejected out of the decision-making process around water in this province.



“Recommendation:  The Water for Life Strategy should recognize that current agreements with provinces and nations may need to be modified and updated in response to changing circumstances.”

Coincidentally, I have an email waiting to go out.  About changing the details of the Water Apportionment Agreements (Alberta-Saskatchewan-Manitoba;  Canada-USA).  Makes one a little nervous if it’s the “narrow self interests” that are behind it.  And if it’s “political decisions” that rule the day.

But I am very happy to see this item re water agreements tabled.  The Prairie Provinces Water Board has jurisdiction.  I note just a couple of things:

–  we, nor the media, pay much attention to the PPWB.  Most people don’t know of its existence.   http://www.mb.ec.gc.ca/water/fa01/index.en.html

–  The Apportionment Agreement is complex.  But the requirement most often cited is that 50% of the natural flow in the River must be passed along from Alberta to Saskatchewan.  And Saskatchewan must pass 50% of the flow along to Manitoba.  The flow is measured at the border.

Except in the case of the South Saskatchewan River.  The South Sask River is over-diverted (demands of City of Calgary, demands of large-scale irrigation in southern Alberta, etc.).  The over-diversion is accommodated by allowing the measurement of water to be taken inside Saskatchewan, after the Red Deer River from Alberta has joined the South Sask River.

But there is a huge push now, along the Red Deer River, for “development”.

The “development” is of water-intensive users.  The attitude is “why shouldn’t we benefit from our River?  Why should “our water” be used to subsidize the irrigators in the south of the Province (of Alberta)?”.

The point I wish to make is that 50% of abundance is plenty for everyone.

But 50% of scarcity is impoverishment.  Percentages work that way.  I don’t pretend to know enough, but when Rosenberg says that the Apportionment agreements “may” need to be updated, I raise my voice in support.

–  I don’t know if the Apportionment Agreements take into account the CONSEQUENCES of the measurement (regulatory) systems.  Use this example:  it is known that the sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions from Tar Sands development are creating acid rain, that lakes (and land) in northern Saskatchewan are dying from it (small pockets are already past “critical load limits”).  If you ask how that can happen in today’s world, you will be told that the emissions are measured.  By independent parties.  It is all done strictly well.  And according to regulation.

People KNOW that the lakes are dying.  And do nothing because the regulations are being met??  How numb-brained can we get?  Especially in the face of planned major expansions of the Tar Sands  – huge more volumes of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide onto an already-dying environment?  Huge more quantities of water made unpotable.  The regulations are there, but there is no requirement to take into account THE CONSEQUENCES of existing limits, nor THE CONSEQUENCES of the COMBINED contributions to air pollution or water availability.  Do the Apportionment agreements look at the consequences of a decision in Alberta for the delta of the River in Manitoba?  I don’t know.

The requirement to adhere to a measurement of the volume of water is insufficient.

–  presumeably there were water apportionment agreements in the U.S.  The management of their river water has been a disaster.  Today there is litigation over water rights on every River in the U.S. and a national association of lawyers who do nothing but litigation over water rights.  A lack of protection, planning and foresight for water means that individual citizens lose out.  Who can afford the corporate lawyers?

–  it is smart to be involved and knowledgeable.  It is smart to be activist, when it comes to water.



The existing network of groundwater monitoring is insufficient to provide reliable information on water quality and water levels and their variability.”

That is a point we have been challenging “at the microphone” in water meetings when Government people are in attendance.  We do not have the data to know what the withdrawal of water is from underground aquifers, what the aquifer recharge rates are under conditions of climate change.  They have updated their response to the question by asserting that they have very good information and quote the divergence between what’s coming down (precipitation) and what is lost through transevaporation.  Ask “How do you collect the information for combined human withdrawals from the aquifers?”.

The answer is: they don’t have systems in place to do this.

Exactly what Rosenberg tells us.

It is not acceptable to not know what’s happening to levels and quality of water in aquifers, and simultaneously expanding access to aquifer water.  On the quality side, aquifer water is being contaminated by coalbed methane (shallow gas) development.  There are numerous stories about it.  Friends of my parents visited and related how their son has many wells per quarter section.  Now, when they turn on the tap, if ignited, the water appears to be on fire, from the methane that has leaked into the aquifers, as a consequence of the drilling.  The Government turns a blind eye.  No regulation to protect the water.  We know very well that when the oil and gas companies leave, after the well is drained,  they will no longer be delivering a water supply to the farmer, as they now do.  With no potable water, no one will live there in future.

We are in a situation where it’s not a good idea to sit on the back-side watching TV.  Better to get on the phone and raise a little hell.


This is just a sampling of material in the Report.  I only read to page 10.

I am hoping that others will read further and provide comment, if warranted.

We work with many good people in Government.  By sharing our information with them, and vice versa, everyone can do their work better.  Many thanks to Wayne Dybvig for sending the Rosenberg Report.  Wayne was Executive Director of Sask Water when we were working  on the Meridian Dam.  He is Executive Director, Prairie Provinces Water Board.  He is now an employee of the Federal Government, and sits on the International Joint Commission (IJC).

People tend to think of the IJC in relation to the management of the transboundary water in central Canada, the Great Lakes.  But the IJC is responsible along the length of the border between Canada and the U.S.

Wayne is involved in negotiations that affect transboundary water in western Canada, for example, the Milk River that flows out of Alberta south into the Missouri system which then joins the Mississippi.




 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>