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NDP MLA critical of UCP’s drought plans, says more long-term planning needed

Posted on May 23, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Brendan Miller
Southern Alberta Newspapers

Sarah Elmeligi, MLA for Banff-Kananaskis and opposition critic for tourism, says the UCP needs to think about long-term solutions for ongoing droughts in southern Alberta.

Elmeligi spoke to about 40 citizens during a recent town hall-style forum, citing 15 years of work as a wildlife biologist before becoming the NPD’s only rural elected MLA, and says she still has deep roots in wildlife and environmental conservation efforts.

“I can’t stop being a biologist,” said Elmeligi. “And it’s through that work as a conservation biologist that I have truly gotten to know and fallen in love with all parts of the southern Alberta landscape.”

During her talk, Elmeligi shared concerns on how the UCP government is handling drought conditions following another winter with below average precipitation and snowpack.

“Right now we’re in a multi-year drought and so that challenge is more exacerbated right now,” said Elmeligi. “My challenge right now is that the UCP government keeps talking about this as if ‘maybe we’re in a drought, maybe this might get worse.’ But I mean, there’s no water in the Old Man Reservoir. I was there, it’s like a puddle.”

Elmeligi says she wants to see more action from the province as climate change models indicate people will have to adapt to less water availability in the region.

“Southern Alberta can expect more frequent and more intense droughts as the climate changes,” said Elmeligi. “And so we need to be thinking about drought as a long-term situation.

“We need to be thinking about how we adapt our lifestyles and our communities to maybe living with less water over the long term and what that looks like.”

Elmeligi would like to see the province activate its water-sharing agreements to reduce water consumption between irrigation districts, industries and municipalities before conditions get worse.

“We don’t need to wait to be in a drought because we’re in one right now.”

Under the water-sharing agreements municipalities have been asked to voluntarily drop water usage between five and 10 per cent.

However, Elmeligi says at this time no other water holders in the province are being asked to implement similar restrictions on water usage.

“On the one hand, the minister keeps saying that drought is up to all Albertans to work together to address,” said Elmeligi. “And on the other hand, they don’t really require anybody to do anything.”

Currently the province is in stage 4 of 5 in its water shortage management response plan and officials with the government have said they are continuing to monitor drought conditions, particularly in the southern part of the province.

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