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Watersheds for Management and Monitoring

27 June 2011

Resources – human, financial, and natural, are the foundations of community development. In order to improve their own livelihoods, civilizations of people have attempted to manage the resources around them for millennia. Whether by accident or by design, watersheds – natural boundaries within which landscape drainage occurs toward common receiving bodies of water – have been managed for survival and societal enhancement, and with varying degrees of success.

Watersheds have served to integrate societies sharing the same drainage area through the provision of water power, irrigation, domestic water supply, fish, wildlife, and transportation. Since the dawn of agricultural society, drainage and irrigation have been major forces behind efforts to manage and/or develop the land resources of a watershed region.

Scientists recognized the watershed during the early 1960s as a sensible framework within which to address interrelated problems of public concern relating to environmental degradation. As any investigations aimed at addressing such chronic concerns would be both expensive and long-lasting, the approach of “taking the whole watershed into account” evolved as an efficient and practical means of tackling these issues with the support of science.

According to Heindl (1972), two pervasive concepts founded the discipline:

1) The watershed is a closed-system which integrates the numerous physical forces which act upon it; and
2) Under similar land use, geographic, climatic conditions much of the knowledge and experience gained through the study of one watershed is transferable to other areas.

These common drainage areas should be meaningful to the people who live in them and use their resources. They should also be manageable so that local governance entities such as local municipalities, conservation districts, and other community stakeholders may in fact have significant influence in improving their condition.

If provided an opportunity, and if provided clear information regarding related federal and provincial policy objectives, it is our proposition that the residents of any given watershed which meets the meaningful and manageable scale test will come to a reasonable consensus regarding a set of common goals to which they can all aspire.

Across the Canadian Prairies, many watershed-based initiatives are developing – through which the shared interests of local residents are being prioritized for action through extensive community consultation and watershed-planning processes. These common watershed-based interested may be described as Watershed Community Goals.

Private agricultural landowners are also watershed community residents who have a massive and daily influence on the contributing watershed landscape. Their perceptions are shaped by their needs and views. Convincing farmers that a new government policy or program is worthwhile will be easier if it makes sense in light of the watershed community goals they have already come to appreciate.

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