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Headwaters film released for World Water Day

Videographer Yvan Lebel filming native cutthroat trout in a tributary of the Livingstone River using a Go-Pro duct-taped to the end of a tent pole.

Do you know where your water actually comes from?

A non-profit group of southern Alberta land owners thinks it’s important that you do. 

That’s why, just in time for World Water Day 2020 on March 23, the Livingstone Land Owners Group released a new documentary video on the sources of Canada’s prairie rivers.

Finding Water: Healthy Land, Healthy Stream is an exploration of the headwaters of the Oldman River on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies.

“We think of water as something that comes from a stream,” narrator Kevin Van Tighem said. “And it does. But it also comes to the stream. And our water security — how clean it is, how bad the spring floods get, how cold and abundant our summer water supply is — depends on how it gets there.”

The 25-minute documentary film is both a celebration of some of the most beautiful streams anywhere, and a cautionary warning about their vulnerability to our use of the surrounding land.

The documentary can be viewed at

Filmed and edited by videographer Yvan Lebel, the new film features never before seen underwater images of west slope cutthroat trout and Alberta’s provincial fish, the bull trout — both of which are classified now as species at risk. 

With contributions by fisheries biologist Lorne Fitch, landscape ecologist Kevin Van Tighem and groundwater hydrologist Cherie Westbrook the film takes viewers beneath the surface of mountain streams, high above the foothills of the Rockies, and deep into the story of the living waters.

Finding Water shows how snow and rain turn into the river water that supports more than two-thirds of Canada’s irrigated agriculture and sustains communities large and small across southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

The film illustrates how every land use decision in the headwaters of prairie rivers is, in fact, a water management decision.

The Livingstone Land Owners Group is composed of private property owners. Their concern about land health extends to the thousands of square kilometres of public land that Albertans have been blessed with in the region.  

“Our members have been heavily involved in government land use planning efforts for the Livingstone and Porcupine Hills region over the past few years,” president Bill Trafford said.  “It became clear that a lot of land users are unaware of the impacts our activities can have on healthy streams and water security. So we welcomed the opportunity to work with Yvan Lebel to create a powerful video that, we hope, will increase the water literacy of public land users.”

There is something like 25 per cent less water in the Oldman now as there was a hundred years ago, fisheries biologist Lorne Fitch noted, adding that represents just the natural flow, before withdrawals for domestic and irrigation use.

The Bow and Oldman River watersheds have had a moratorium on new water licences since 2006, because there is simply no more unallocated water. 

Yet water demand continues to increase.

Finding Water was produced with the help of a grant from the Alberta Land Stewardship Centre’s Watershed Stewardship Grant Program, and extensive voluntary and in-kind contributions from members of the Livingstone Land Owners Group.

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