A two-year $500,000 provincial grant, announced yesterday, will allow the newly-created Athabasca Watershed Council to set up operations to advise government and begin its assessment of the state of the watershed.

Alberta’s 10th watershed planning and advisory council covers most of the Athabasca River watershed, from the headwaters in Jasper National Park, through north-central Alberta to Lake Athabasca. It includes membership from agriculture and forestry industries, the region’s oil sands industry, Aboriginal communities, municipalities, academic institutions, environmental organizations, provincial government, and citizens.

Their work helps to inform decision-making by government, municipalities, industry and others, and regional planning under the Land-use Framework. These partnerships lead watershed planning, develop best practices, foster stewardship, educate and report on the state of the watershed.

The councils also provide a forum for communities and stakeholders to build a common understanding of the issues and opportunities within their watershed. They help ensure a high level of protection of the aquatic ecosystem, facilitate more efficient water use, and provide a forum for developing collaborative management options that are both realistic and effective.

Since 2004, the Government of Alberta has completed 23 key actions and has invested about $600 million in achieving Water for Life goals and directions with significant progress in drinking water, knowledge and research, and partnerships.

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