About AWQA

AWQA_CLandor Print DefaultSponsored by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.


Alberta Water Quality Awareness (AWQA) is a province-wide program focused on increasing people’s awareness and understanding of water quality and watershed health, through hands-on water quality testing.

AWQA participants use water quality test kits to get outside and explore the health of their local waterways. Using their test kits, participants gather basic information about the health of Alberta’s surface waterbodies and then contribute what they find to our online database and watershed map.


Why is water monitoring important?

Increasing demands placed on waterbodies in our province together with the threat of pollution and environmental damage has made water management increasingly important.  The first step to effective management is improved knowledge and awareness.

By participating in this province-wide community monitoring event, Albertans are:

  • Gaining an understanding of the health of their local waters
  • Working together to create a province-wide snapshot of basic water quality
  • Helping to build an ethic of stewardship and water protection
  • Becoming involved in their watersheds at a local level
  • Getting outside and having fun while exploring the health of our watersheds

When is AWQA day?

Alberta Water Quality Awareness Day is June 5 every year. June 5 coincides with Environment Week and also World Environment Day. Kits and refills are available for purchase any time here.

Water Quality Test Kits

The AWQA Day test kits provide the materials to test four basic measures of water quality:
–  temperature
–  dissolved oxygen
–  pH
–  turbidity

These water quality characteristics may have important implications for fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and human health. The test kits can be used to test any stream, lake, river, wetland, dugout, pond, slough or other surface waterbody in Alberta.

Sharing Results

CMSL CircleAWQA Day participants submit the water quality information they collect to a watershed map and online database to share with others.  Together, everyone that participates in AWQA Day is illustrating a common interest among many Albertans to be involved in their watersheds, while creating a province-wide snapshot of water quality.


History

AWQA is modeled after the highly successful World Water Monitoring Challenge (WWMC), a program created and coordinated by America’s Clean Water Foundation. WWMC began in 2002 as part of an effort to connect people personally with efforts to protect and preserve their local watersheds. In addition, WWMC provides a means of building information on the health of water resources over time.

AWQA follows the same format as WWMC and capitalizes on the existing knowledge and interest of many Albertans to help introduce water monitoring to others who have an interest in learning more about their local watershed.

2005 was a pilot year for AWQA Day, and continued annually until 2009. Due to funding limitations, free AWQA kits and events will be offered on a 3 year schedule. The next year for free kits will be 2018.

We encourage everyone to get involved, take a personal stake in water management and to get outside and have fun!

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Alberta Tomorrow

Alberta Tomorrow was  created in 2005 by Matthew Carlson and Dr. Brad Stelfox of the ALCES group. Since its creation, Alberta Tomorrow has been used by teachers and students throughout Alberta.

The Alberta Tomorrow simulator is an educational tool that helps people understand the process of sustainable planning to balance land-uses such as agriculture, oil and gas and forestry with ecological integrity. By looking at past and present landscape imagery, users will be able to see changes that have taken place throughout history. There are plenty of other educational activities and videos that are available for teachers, as well as students.

This year, ALMS is partnering with Alberta Tomorrow so that all the submitted AWQA data is incorporated into their database so that students and teachers from all over the province can use the data that they collect in a whole new way!

For more information on what Alberta Tomorrow has to offer and to use their simulator, please follow this link: http://albertatomorrow.ca/

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Invasive Plants in your Lake?

ALMS is looking to provide workshops on submerged aquatic plant identification to help you look for the invasive species. Please contact us if you would like to host a workshop for your lake!

NALMS 2016 – Call For Abstracts Now Open

Click here for more information on registration and submitting abstracts. Abstracts are due by May 6, 2016.

If you'd like a downloadable poster to print and display in your office, click here .

Sample Table of Contents

WMP_ToC (larger)

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Adapt

Step 16: Adapt the plan to new information

Touchwood (Brad) (8)What has the monitoring results of the plan and of the indicators shown? Is there a need to modify the plan? It is important that the lake watershed management plan does not just sit on a shelf. Information gaps should be addressed, action items need to be managed, completed, and evaluated to best address the needs of the lake. Always keep in mind the vision: if the actions taken are not bringing the lake closer to that vision, then the plan needs to be modified. Consider updating both the state of the watershed and the lake watershed management plans at regular intervals to make sure that the actions taken were achieving the desired outcomes and to evaluate what work still needs to be done.

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Step 15: Report on implementation and outcomes

step15 - reportingReporting is an essential component of any watershed management planning and implementation process. There are two main types of reporting that should be shared with stakeholders on a regular basis: implementation reporting & effectiveness reporting.

Regular reporting throughout the implementation of the watershed management plan process is a very important step for morale and overall success of the plan. Highlighting the successes of the plan helps inspire people to continue working towards the desired outcomes, and also emphasizes the transparency of the whole process, leading to greater trust in the process itself and confidence in the outcomes.

More information on reporting can be found in the Guide to Watershed Management Planning in Alberta (pages 39-40).

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Step 14: Monitor implementation and outcomes

mayatanThe development of a lake watershed management plan provides the guidance needed to implement activities, but the plan cannot be static. Monitoring the performance of your management actions is essential to understanding whether your goals have been met, and whether further actions are needed. Monitoring and evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of a lake watershed management plan allows assessment of progress towards the goals and objectives of the plan, identification of problems and opportunities, and a collection of critical information required when performing a 5 or 10 year review of the plan.

Monitoring allows successes to be acknowledged and celebrated, and provides an early opportunity to identify impediments to progress so that adjustments can be made. For example, further management actions, or changes to existing treatments, are sometimes required to restore highly productive lakes.

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Step 13: Implement the plan

step 13 - fundraisingOnce a plan has been approved by all affected sectors and officially endorsed and released by the steering committee, then implementation can begin in full. Action projects can be large and comprehensive, or made smaller by staging projects over time or into modules that can be tackled one at a time. Fundraising is an issue that many community groups may find intimidating, but experience with programs such as the Pine Lake Restoration Program (see Case Studies) suggests that there are excellent funding opportunities in this province for well-thought out projects.

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Step 12: Establish an implementation committee

checklist-imageThe members of the steering committee will continue to play a strong role in facilitating and tracking implementation actions. This includes any actions they were responsible for, as well as tracking other committees and sector’s actions and progress made towards achieving the plan’s outcomes. Ongoing communication is essential to successful implementation and achieving outcomes, therefore a regular reporting mechanism could be set up in order to provide regular evaluation of the plan.

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Step 11: Build the foundation for successful implementation

Look back on the previous steps to see who is responsible for coordinating and completing each action. Ideally, these assigned actions will be carried away by the different sectors involved (e.g. government, industry, community, ENGOs, members of the watershed stewardship group). If an action belongs to multiple sectors, new working groups may need to be formed.

Watershed management plans form recommendations to governments, and although the plan has no legal authority, the advice it provides may be used to inform decisions made by municipal, provincial, federal, and First Nations governments. A strategy is necessary to ensure that governments are aware of the recommendations and consider them in all of their decisions on an ongoing basis.

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Step 10: Draft and confirm support for the plan

Once the outcomes, objectives, indicators and actions have been agreed to by the steering committee, the stakeholder advisory group, and the technical committee, it is time to compile all of the information into a draft document. Also include the next steps, such as how the plan will be implemented, monitored and adapted over time.

The plan recommendations should be clearly communicated to and accepted by stakeholders in the watershed community to be effective. The wider watershed community can be informed and engaged through a variety of ways, like informal consultation, public forums, open houses, traditional media, social media, and websites. The Case Study at Moose Lake describes how the Moose Lake Watershed Society achieved objectives of their plan and got the wider watershed community on board.

A useful resource that outlines the key considerations for communicating your plan to the watershed community is Building Community Support for your Project, by Alberta Agriculture.

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Step 9: Develop, evaluate and select preferred management actions

step 9 - types of management actionsThere is no limit to the number or types of lake management actions, but they typically fall into the categories on the right.

Be careful of “quick-fix” technologies! Always ask about well-documented examples of the use of such technology for the specific type of lake management problem in question. These technologies may not be as practical as they seem, and some aren’t even legally allowed in Alberta. A summary report developed by the Alberta Government in 2012 lists some benefits and drawbacks of commonly used in-lake treatments and techniques to control nuisance blue-green algae blooms at Pigeon Lake.

The NALMS publication Managing Lakes and Reservoirs, provides information on guiding lake management groups through this step, and their website also lists a directory of Certified Lake Professionals with demonstrated experience in this field, including several that live and work in Canada. There are also some detailed scientific texts that deal specifically with steps taken to decide on management alternatives, which are referenced on page 44 of the Workbook.

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Step 8: Identify outcomes, objectives, and indicators

step 8 - outcomes

Before identifying outcomes, objectives, and indicators, it helps to refine the plan’s vision statement. A vision should be inspirational, but also achievable. See the Sylvan Lake Case Study for an example of creating an effective vision statement.

For more information on selecting and evaluating indicators, see Table 3 (pages 24-25 in the Workbook), or consult the Guide to Reporting on Common Indicators Used in State of the Watershed Reports.

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Step 7: Develop a communications and engagement strategy

Detail how you will inform and engage the various committees, their networks, as well as the broader watershed community throughout the various stages and projects involved in the lake watershed management plan. Plan to inform, consult, involve and/or invite collaboration with the various stakeholders. For more information on public engagement, see the Case Study for Pigeon Lake, whose plan used a simplified version of the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation.

To help engage the public, the Pigeon Lake Watershed Association manages a website dedicated to information on their WMP

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Step 6: Prepare and confirm support for the terms of reference

The Terms of Reference is the first product of the steering committee, and it states the objectives, process and structure that will guide the development of the lake watershed management plan. The Terms of Reference needs to be approved or endorsed by the group leading the initiative (typically the watershed stewardship group) and members of the stakeholder advisory group. Approval is very important, because it is confirmation of support of the plan and its intended actions within the watershed.

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Step 5: Identify priorities and the scope and scale of planning activities

Some issues or concerns may have already been identified in the State of the Watershed report (Step 1), but it is also necessary to involve all of the stakeholders in selecting which issues and opportunities to focus on. Involve the advisory group members (which has broad stakeholder representation), by having them identify and list all concerns and opportunities regarding the watershed’s natural resources and economic trends that have an impact on quality or use. Another way to identify issues is through a watershed community survey. The NALMS publication, Managing Lakes and Reservoirs, provides information on conducting effective community surveys. Lac La Nonne provides a good example of this process in Alberta, and it is included on the Case Studies page.  guide-to-wshed-mgmt-planning-in-AB

Online or mail-in surveys should be supplemented by phone interviews to ensure that the results are representative of the public opinion. Opinion surveying is a complex science, and provincial government agencies or universities have sometimes provided assistance to community groups in the past. Once surveying has been completed, the stakeholder advisory group should be asked to assess and prioritize the identified issues from the State of the Watershed and from the completed surveys. Use criteria such as:

The Guide to Watershed Management Planning in Alberta outlines several tools to help select the priority issues to be addressed in the watershed management plan. Don’t try to tackle all of the concerns at one time! A watershed management plan is a continuous cycle, so choose to address priority problems over time or focus on specific watershed areas initially. Allow for regular re-confirmation of priorities before starting new projects.

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Step 4: Establish the structure under which participants will contribute

gov structure circle (no background)This graphic describes how the various committees and groups will work and interact together. The circle size depicts the approximate number of people involved, and the circles overlapping indicates that some individuals may reside in all of the circles and participate in multiple committees as part of the planning process. The technical committee is shown as an arrow, indicating that it is independent and has relatively few people, and yet it interacts with all of the groups. This graphic may look different depending on the lake and the people involved, and a detailed structure should be agreed upon and described in the plan’s Terms of Reference (Step 6).

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Step 3: Determine how participants will work together

People will come to the table from different starting points, and involving everyone and finding ways to respect and address the concerns will also help to speak to the concerns of the broader community that shares those concerns and interests. This step may be difficult, but considering all sides from the beginning will lead to better solutions and implementation in the end. Excluding some interests and viewpoints may jeopardize completion of the overall plan. A critical component of successful watershed management planning is that decisions are made and agreed to by consensus. Decisions made with all stakeholders in agreement are stronger and easier to implement. For more information on consensus decision making, check out this Consensus Decision Making Toolkit found on the Alberta Water Council webpage.

Principles & Practices of Successful Steering Committees

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Adapt
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Monitor & Report

The next two steps are important for understanding the effectiveness of the plan and for keeping a record of what may work and what may not. Regular monitoring and reporting as the plan is implemented allows successes and potential impediments to be recognized, resulting in celebrations of achievements, or adjustments to be made.

Step 14: Monitor implementation and outcomes

Step 15: Report on implementation and outcomes

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Implement

Once your group has developed a detailed action plan you will need to take specific steps to turn the recommendations into reality.

Step 11: Build the foundation for successful implementation

Step 12: Establish an implementation committee

Step 13: Implement the plan

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Plan

Data collected and the State of the Watershed (SoW) reports written thus far are critical to understand the severity of the lake’s problems and figure out what has caused them, but the lake watershed management plan, developed collaboratively, is now the place to detail the strategy to address the issues that stakeholders want to focus on in the lake’s watershed. A sample of a Table of Contents for a Watershed Management Plan is pictured here. (from page 36 in the guide).

Step 5: Identify priorities and the scope and scale of planning activities

Step 6: Prepare and confirm support for the terms of reference

Step 7: Develop a communications and engagement strategy

Step 8: Identify outcomes, objectives, and indicators

Step 9: Develop, evaluate and select preferred management actions

Step 10: Draft and confirm support for the plan

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Collaborate

Typically the whole lake watershed management process begins with a group of individuals who are concerned with an aspect of their lake. These issues can be varied, such as water quality concerns or lakeshore development. In Alberta, this is often a Watershed Stewardship Group but the entire watershed management process will require input and involvement from many people in order to be successful. To find a Watershed Stewardship Group near you, check our list or the Alberta Stewardship Network.

Step 2: Identify who should be involved in developing a watershed management plan

Step 3: Determine how participants will work together

Step 4: Establish the structure under which participants will contribute

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Step 2: Identify who should be involved in developing a watershed management plan

The number of people involved in a watershed management plan depends on many factors. A multiple committee format is outlined in the table to the right, but a smaller lake may not require all of these. For detailed information on the roles of each committee, see pages 30-32 of the Workbook.

step 2 - rolesHelpful resources

Alberta Agriculture’s Guide for Creating Effective Land and Water Stewardship: Community Partnerships

Alberta Water Council’s Strengthening Partnerships: A Shared Governance Framework for Water for Life Collaborative Partnerships

To find contact information for Alberta Government Ministry Regional Offices, check www.alberta.ca, or call the information line: (area code) 310-0000

To contact a First Nation, you must first contact their consultation officers/manager. They act as a liaison and communicate ideas from the interested parties to the governance of the Nation. Contact information for a Nation’s consultation officer may be found on the Nation’s website, through their administration office, or via the Government of Alberta consultation contacts.

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Understand

Step 1: Prepare a State of the Watershed Report

SoW Guide - AB Env

A State of the Watershed (SoW) report is a comprehensive document that helps to identify key issues to be addressed in order to protect or restore lake health. It summarizes ecological, social, economic and demographic factors influencing a lake, and is specific to the characteristics of each lake’s watershed. SoW reports also identify baseline conditions from which to measure future change and progress. Traditionally, SoW reports include technical numerical data, but any type of data can be used. For example, Métis and First Nations Traditional Environmental Knowledge is a very valuable resource for understanding lake management. Other items typically included in SoW reports are:


Useful Links

State of the Watershed Reporting Handbook: A Guide for Developing State of the Watershed Reports in Alberta (Alberta Environment, 2008)
Guide to Reporting on Common Indicators in State of the Watershed Reports (Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, 2012)
Examples of Completed State of the Watershed Reports in Alberta (ALMS)

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