Water, water everywhere – but not for you to drink

Having worked on a farm into late October while attending high school I learned very quickly how reverently “Spud Islanders” active in the agricultural sector treated having an adequate water supply both for their crops and the health of their communities. Unfortunately, such reverence does not appear to be shared by Saskatchewan farmers, or at least those who continue to support the Saskatchewan Party in its attempt to remain “the sole voice of rural Saskatchewan.”

Ever since the February 2018 contest called by the Sask Party to choose an heir to then Premier Brad “Runaway” Wall, water quality available to our farmland has remained a topic of little debate, but much concern. In the “Meet the Candidates” forum that took place in Melfort, candidates were asked how they proposed to deal with the potential for saline lake waters heavily contaminated with chemical runoff in the Quill Lake region draining into southern regional water sources such as Last Mountain Lake, a wetlands preserve and freshwater supply for Regina. Candidates acknowledged that the problem exists, but not one of the six candidates was prepared to discuss the issue at length – and the problem hasn’t been mentioned since.

Anyone driving up Highway 6 north of Highway 16 has noticed the frantic reconstruction of roadways threatened with water overrun due to water levels continuing to rise in Big, Middle and Little Quill lakes. The lake water levels rising are a direct result of a geographic irregularity in the region known as a “terminal basin”, meaning that rising water levels in the lakes have nowhere to go but overflow their shorelines. Moreover, the water now flowing into the lake system carries with it now dissolved and naturally occurring inorganic salts, which when combined with a loss of non-saline water due to evaporation during the summer months only increases the salinity levels in the three lakes. It should therefore be reasonably obvious that should this saline water continue to flow southward as it is now doing, this will eventually damage fisheries, wildlife habitat and water quality, not to mention the availability of agriculturally suitable land for usage by local farmers.

It’s not as if this terminal basin is a recently formed geographical phenomenon, so why is that in the most recent years (ironically, during the period in which the Sask Party assumed governorship of the province in 2007) this problem is only getting worse. As to finding a “solution” to this problem, our government should be obligated to at least explaining why it has become such a critical issue in these fifteen years – which of course it won’t for the simple reason that its urgency is being enhanced by the province’s Ministry of Agriculture’s abject failure to live up to the terms of something called the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, requiring the province to judiciously monitor and even to restrain our farming communities from turning wetland reserves environmentally housing our wildlife populations into arable lands. 

At the same time the province’s most recently presented budget sees Premier Moe determined to push through the development of several irrigational farmland initiatives utilizing Lake Diefenbaker’s resources as their starting point. Studies have shown that the lake has the potential to provide untold megaliters for it to work, but it would first have to be relocated in key “safe” delivery points (a deep coulee, for instance, capable of storing that water source and allow for the continuance of land irrigation even if the lake’s waters itself continue to remain “low”). 

While APAS President Ian Boxall and previous holders of that office may point to the reality that more water is lost in the lake due to evaporation, they are, along with Premier Moe, ignoring the reality that in the 1980’s farm soil samples showed that lands east of the lake were heavily polluted due to agricultural operations utilizing excessive amounts of fertilizer and chemical sprays. Since residual amounts of water already released to irrigate land invariably flow back down into the lake, the same potential for damage as is evident in the Quill Lakes region could eventually wind up polluting the lake waters so badly that existing fish and wildlife populations relying on these waters for survival – not to mention the tourist facilities located around the lake catering to fishing, boating and camping – would cease to exist. 

It would be a simple procedure for the government to provide services that would monitor for the potential creation of such situations, but given that its management of the Quill Lakes issues lacked any form of attention to environmental concerns, the premier seems to believe that the inevitable effects of gravity and our continued abuse of the land are but the overzealous quivering of environmental “extremists” for whom I may even “front” my writings, even though such a potential problem had previously been identified – by the CONSERVATIVE government of Grant Devine.

Were it not enough that the Sask Party has effectively failed to address the issues of management of our water supply – with even the Luddites at a recent Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities meeting passing a motion suggesting that carbon dioxide is NOT a “pollutant” (ocean water surveys are indicating that oxygen levels are plummeting as a result of it absorbing increasing quantities of this gas, and threatening fish populations in the process) – ignores a new “reality” in our world’s inability to understand what factors are essential to provide for the existence of mankind, that being new studies indicating that so-called “forever chemicals” (such as those that were used to create “miracles” for mothers struggling in the kitchen having to scrub pots and pans clean due to food sticking to their surfaces – hence the first of such contaminants being created in Teflon) are now being found in our cities’ water supplies (including Prince Albert), and that our water treatment plants have to be upgraded at substantial cost to assure our public of having a “safe” water supply.

To me, it is merely a sickeningly “amusing” perspective as to the increasing virulence of such health-related contaminants having only recently also been tied to the types of bizarre illness-related “issues” the anti-vaxxer fringe are identifying as being “caused” by individuals having received booster shots for Covid-19. 

And “No”, folks, Justin Trudeau isn’t bringing up these points in his latest fights with Pierre Poilievre over the carbon tax or some other policy that “unjustly” places impediments upon your “freedoms” – which apparently you believe your children should not have.

And neither is Scott Moe…and that, for me, is a real problem…