In New Brunswick, the waters run deep with discontent as the provincial government’s decade-long water conservation strategy reaches its midpoint with less than half of its actions initiated. The Conservation Council of New Brunswick, led by Executive Director Beverly Gingras, voices a potent mix of hope and concern for the future of the province’s water management.

Five years ago, a collaborative effort between environmental groups, including the Conservation Council, and the government culminated in a comprehensive 10-year water strategy. Its ambitious goals aimed to safeguard drinking water, preserve ecosystems, enhance water knowledge, and foster cooperative management. However, Gingras reveals a stagnation in progress and a dilution of initial commitments, particularly the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives in water management—a pledge that remains unfulfilled.

The strategy’s original intent to regulate coastal conservation has shifted to a less decisive “looking at options” stance. Meanwhile, the threat of blue-green algae looms large, with only warning signs to show for action, and the extent of research on the issue remains unclear. Gingras raises the alarm on major unaddressed threats, such as climate change’s role in heating water bodies, potentially harming fish habitats, and exacerbating blue-green algae growth and wildfire prevalence. She also points to overlooked pollutants like pharmaceuticals and personal care products that stress the environment.

Despite these challenges, the Department of Environment and Local Government’s five-year progress report highlights 14 completed actions, including water quality reporting, data standardization, industrial water metering, recreational water monitoring, sewage disposal review, and pesticide regulation evaluation. Yet, critical tasks like expanding monitoring networks, strengthening private well regulations, managing watershed surface water quality, and establishing a drought index await action.

The Conservation Council, alongside 19 watershed associations, continues to advocate for watershed classification and protection—a call that has seen limited response, save for a plan in the Shediac area. Gingras urges the government to re-engage with the strategy’s architects for transparent discussions on meeting the strategy’s objectives.

A communications officer for the department, responding to these concerns in an emailed statement said that the department remains committed to completing the actions in the plan. He also said that in the past two years, more than $4.4 million from the Environmental Trust Fund has gone toward freshwater management projects by watershed groups, universities and other partners.

Related Posts