Join the FLOW (Friends Living on Water) conversation to talk about water during March. As the days lengthen, snow pack and ice melts, celebrate the land and water along the Elk River, what concerns us and want to see in the future along this blue ribbon that connects us all in the Elk Valley.

Water is life. Without it in a few days you will die. We drink it, play in and on it, use it to grow things, and to transport waste and pollutants. Every drop is precious yet we treat it like the tap will never shut off and forget that we too live downstream. To survive we need five liters of water daily and as little as eighty liters to meet basic sanitation, food preparation and bathing needs. Canadians are chronic water wasters and Elk River residents are no exception!

We waste water because we think there is an endless supply in Canada. Although nearly three quarters of Earth is water, only a drop in the bucket or less than one percent is available fresh water, stored on the surface in lakes and rivers, available for all life to share. Where water is available to use is a major problem in Canada with sixty percent of our freshwater flowing north while eighty five percent live, work and farm along the southern borders with the US.

BC has a quarter of Canada‘s fresh water. An expected increase in population, expansion of industry and agriculture and the potential climate change impacts will put pressure on our province‘s water supply. Additionally, in a report issued by the Columbia Basin Trust, Elk Valley communities are among the municipalities that exceed both national and provincial averages of water use.

To raise awareness of water, ERA is commemorating Canada Water Week March 14-22, celebrating healthy rivers and living lakes with the event culminating on the United Nations World Water Day March 22 focusing on ‗water for cities: responding to the urban challenge‘. As part of this celebration, ERA is hosting Jocelyn Hirose, MSc Candidate at the Arts Station March 22, 7-9 p.m. to screen ―Generations‖ a Teton Gravity Research film on the effects of climate change on the ski industry, and her research in the Columbia Basin on climate sensitivity in our glaciated regions and its impact on snowpack and stream flow.

Wednesday March 30, 6:30-9:30 p.m. ERA hosts the first FLOW Conversation at Freshie‘s new location on Second Avenue. Residents are invited to this illuminating, creative conversation of diverse people with different views that promotes thinking like an Elk River watershed. Successive workshops will be hosted at the same time in Sparwood April 30 at the Middletown Café and April 13 in Elkford Aquatic Centre. Produced at FLOW will be a 2020 water vision map. This input will be channeled to the ERA‘s ―H2Oh! Workshop‖ with water decision makers and community water champions in May 2011.

ERA, a project of Wildsight Elk Valley Branch, have three main goals: increase community understanding of our watershed to keep it healthy, restore and improve damaged aquatic ecosystems and promote sustainable water use. As watershed neighbors we can do this by borrowing water for a time, use it and return it clean, clear, and in a suitable quantity for other users downstream thus keeping the Elk River ‗drinkable, swimable, fishable for future generations‘.

Watershed thinking needs a clear water vision. The FLOW Conversations will help identify gaps in our knowledge and make new information about the Elk River available to the public. Collectively we can develop a map to navigate the braided channels together using specific strategies and actions. With water quality and quantity targets, water monitoring and reporting of watershed activities in place, communities will have a better idea of what is going on in and how to care for our water.

American Microbiologist Jonas Salk (1914-1995) once said, ―Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.‖ ERA‘s FLOW Conversation can contribute to passing on a healthy watershed legacy to future generations. To get FLOW happening see www.elkriverallinace.ca/flow.

Lee-Anne Walker is the Executive Director of the Elk River Alliance. Contact her at leeanne@elkriveralliance.ca or call (250) 423-4306.

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