Wildsight citizens are hard at work researching and collecting data at Horse Creek near Golden. The initiative will collect water quality data that can help municipalities make informed decisions on water issues.

Water levels and ecosystems around Golden affected by climate change

Global problems like climate change and water scarcity might seem far-removed from Golden but this area isn't immune to freshwater woes.

Natasha OverduinWildsight

When you’re fishing in the Columbia or rafting down the Kicking Horse, global problems like climate change, water scarcity, and declining fish populations seem far-removed and irrelevant.

But Golden is not immune to freshwater woes.

In the Columbia Valley, a changing climate, reduced snowpack, dwindling glaciers, drier summers, increased fire risk, and invasive species are changing both ecosystems and water levels. Increasing resource and municipal development means there are also concerns about impacts to water quality and sensitive aquatic habitats.

In Golden and surrounding area, two powerful rivers, as well as many lakes and smaller creeks, are a source for local pride, heritage, fishing, and paddling. The Town of Golden is very fortunate as we don’t have to treat our community water, which comes from a shallow underground aquifer. This is a rarity in today’s world, and something to be celebrated.

At the same time, unpredictable waterways like the Kicking Horse pose serious flood risks – as evidenced by the ice event this winter. In Nicholson, water quality contamination from septic fields is a growing concern. And, Golden’s remarkably pure water supply is vulnerable to contamination from pollutants (like lawn pesticide) that flush into our storm drains.

Finding solutions to complex water issues requires that we re-think our systems of decision-making and accountability. Citizens, communities, local organizations, private industries, First Nations, and all levels of governments need to be involved in water decision-making and share responsibility for its management and protection.

Across the Columbia River Basin, citizens are taking action and seeking to have greater influence over land and water-use decisions made in their home watersheds.

Here in Golden, Wildsight is conducting water quality research on Horse Creek, Ventego Creek, and Washout Creek, as well as collecting valuable data on wetland waterbirds. In Invermere area, citizens have formed the Lake Windermere Project. The Project collects water quality data during the summer using “citizen science” and created an advisory board that provides advice to the municipality on water issues. Similar initiatives can be found in the Elk Valley and West Kootenays.

As the ice melts in the river and sloughs, Earth Day (April 22nd) presents a kick-off opportunity to take action and get involved in giving back to the community, and the environment. Volunteer with a community organization, practice smart water conservation at home and in your garden, and help inform neighbours that our drinking water is vulnerable, and must be cherished and protected.

Wildsight Golden celebrates Golden with their annual community pot-luck and clean-up event at Reflection Lake (5 pm on April 22nd). Volunteers welcome!

Natasha Overduin is the Outreach Coordinator for Wildsight Golden, and a graduate student studying water governance at the University of Victoria.