Quality, quantity, location, potability, taste, pressure, turbulence, pH, temperature, turbidity, access: water, the universal solvent! Too much is a problem; we seldom think of it unless it’s raining on our parade: but we can’t live without it. It’s the first thing I drink in the morning and the last in the evening. I shower in it and wash the dishes in it; (I do so wash the dishes)!
Here in town, you probably don’t think much about water issues as long as it comes when you turn on the tap, does its job, and disappears down the drain. Water issues are for someone else, and far away. Yet there are water issues here in the Peace – even in our used-to-be-pristine watershed that reaches west into the Rockies for 80 miles.
What are our issues? For one thing, our watershed shares valleys and mountain passes with major industries and transportation links. As the shared spaces become increasingly congested, we are becoming increasingly aware of our need to know what is going on, what is in planning stages, and to have a major say in how development continues and how the integrity of our water sources will be protected.
Highway 97 was opened to Prince George more than 60 years ago. Since that day in 1952 our river has never been the same. Later in the 50s, BC Rail laid its tracks through the pass. About the same time the first pipeline began carrying hydrocarbons through our mountains to market.
We’ve escaped some of the consequences of development, but not all. There have been train derailings, a super-major oil spill, vehicles swamped in the river, and the annual forestry activity that leaves its own signature on our mountain slopes. And now we are faced with potential new pipelines and increased mining activity in our watershed.
Where can we go to hide from development? There’s nowhere to hide. Do we want to hide? Most of us want to stay right here doing the things that we love to do – many of which take us daily into the same hills and valleys that filter our water. Certainly, we are not opposed to development. But we insist that developers, regulating authorities, and users consider and respect the needs of everyone affected by development and follow best practices for harvesting our natural resources – as I am sure they intend to do. We need measured development to keep our grocery stores in business, our pot holes filled, and our schools schooling.
One of our most precious and vulnerable resources: our water supply. There is so much we don’t know about how the water, the land, the trees, and the air work together to provide and sustain the environment in which we love to live. With so much still to be learned, it behoves us all to treat with care and respect those elements that we do know while giving the benefit of the doubt to protection of all that we have.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor