Water is fundamental to human life and the ecosystems that support that life. The importance and value of water becomes especially significant in semi-arid southern Saskatchewan. As Saskatchewan grows and the climate changes, water availability will be a limitation for meeting social and environmental needs. Reliable access to safe freshwater will be one of the biggest challenges we will face in the prairies in the 21st century.
In the summer of 2020, the Saskatchewan Government announced an immediate $4 billion to irrigate 500,000 acres (200,000 ha) of land from Lake Diefenbaker over a 10-year period, doubling the irrigable land in the province. The South Saskatchewan River represents the main reliable freshwater source for much of southern Saskatchewan. Urban centres like Regina, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon are totally dependent on the river for their water supply; and many smaller communities, farmers, industries, and other water users also depend on the river. That is why SES called for an environmental impact assessment to consider the environmental consequences, economic impacts and public policy ramifications of this hastily announced project.
In the summer of 2016, a rupture in a Husky Energy oil pipeline spilled as much as 250,000 litres of crude oil and diluent into the North Saskatchewan River. The contamination spanned 500 kilometres of the river, putting the drinking water of nearly 70,000 Saskatchewan residents at risk, and resulted in at least 150 reported wildlife deaths. The spill exposed a lax regulatory system governing oil pipelines in Saskatchewan. In an inclusive set of recommendations, SES called for 13 new oil pipeline safety measures for the Saskatchewan government to implement, to ensure better safeguards for our water.
SES is pressing for cleanup of northern Saskatchewan watersheds contaminated by the operation of uranium mines. Even though some closed over 30 years ago, their legacy of contamination continues to this day.
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society continues to play an important role in planning and education around water issues.