GUEST COMMENT: All stakeholders must be heard in water decisions

NANAIMO – The importance of stewarding our water and watersheds should encourage all of us to re-think the process.

By Lisa M. Fox

I grew up in the rivers and lakes of Vancouver Island, swam with the spawning salmon and explored the coastal habitat of both people and the wildlife that is so rich and diverse in the Gulf Islands.

I cherished the special places of my home and visit them often for renewal and revival of my dedication and career as a change agent and leader in environmental management.

When I moved to Alberta several years ago, I discovered a love for public policy and enabling policy tools that brought together people from diverse interests to build solutions for complex environmental and social problems.

Water has and will always be my passion – water is intrinsically valued by all of us and to some, water is more than a resource for recreation, necessary community infrastructure, and something to be managed.

Water is an essential component of life and some of us understand this in a very powerful instinctive way. There are strong feelings that erupt when we see water decisions being made that are exclusive of a ‘respect’ for our feelings of place and values.

The policy nexus of water lives in the values and hearts of the community – when decisions are made to manage, steward, or change the dynamics of how we interact with water, community must be engaged in a meaningful way.

Not exclusive of science, common sense, or risk scenarios – but rather, inclusive of all the values of the people that interact and live in the water community.

We call this watershed management planning in Alberta – and we have developed a shared governance approach to water management that is inclusive of the voices of the community, governments, and other key stakeholders through process.

This process is one where the water is at the centre of the dialogue – the science, the risk, and the values are all on the table in the process of making decisions. Trust in the process must be earned – decisions that flow from trust will be observed, respected, and doable.

My love for the special places of my home has encouraged me to pen this letter to all that might take a moment to read it.

The importance of stewarding our water and watersheds should encourage all of us to re-think the process and perhaps take a page from another book that in my opinion, is starting to get it right.


Lisa Maria Fox is the founder and executive director of Sustainability Resources Ltd.