Group calls for louder voice in water issues

WaterWealth Project, a new group in Chilliwack, wants residents to have full control over their water ways.

A new group in Chilliwack wants residents to have full control over their water ways.

The first of its kind in Canada, the WaterWealth Project wants legislative change to enshrine the community’s voice in any project proposal involving the local rivers and lakes. The group is fighting to give local residents the right to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on “decisions that affect the wealth of their water,” as the mission statement indicates. This also involves respecting and upholding aboriginal rights.

“Local residents are smart. They’re not to be patronized by decisions coming out of Victoria, out of Ottawa. They need to be involved in, and have the authority, to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to decisions that impact their water. Water is so essential to what we have here in Chilliwack and in the Fraser Valley in general,” says campaign director Sheila Muxlow, who is also a founding member of PIPE UP Network.

To introduce themselves to the community, WaterWealth is holding an open house this Sat. at 3 p.m., at their new office at 45668 Storey Ave. in Chilliwack. It will be a full-fledged community event, with a barbecue, live music, children’s activities, and a storyteller.

The group will also showcase the interactive technology that it says will open up discussions on water. This includes mapping software, and a visualization tool for social media called SayZu.

“It’s a way to amplify the conversation around our water systems, and around the relationships we have to water, and helping to profile the unique attributes and unique wealth that we have here in the Valley,” says Muxlow.

Right now, WaterWealth is supremely concerned about three issues: the proposed Kinder Morgan bitumen pipeline, which will cut through waterways and risk a spill; gravel mining from the Fraser River, which the group says threatens rich salmon spawning locations; and, urban sprawl and agricultural methods that may pollute water sources and contaminate animal habitats.

WaterWealth hopes to work alongside the various groups campaigning on these issues, such as PIPE UP Network and the Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy, to approach the issues through a water protection lens and advocate for residents having power to control their community’s water.

Muxlow says that the community’s strong response to Fraser Health’s proposal to chlorinate drinking water demonstrates the importance of water to Chilliwack, but the group will not directly engage with this issue because it believes the community is already very active in demanding control over its drinking water.

WaterWealth wants to protect wealth in the Fraser Valley, which Muxlow says reaches beyond what is in bank accounts.

“It is about the quality of life we have here in the Valley, the access to fresh rivers and lakes that we can go swimming in, the places that we can go and engage with nature that are still clean, healthy, and productive,” Muxlow says.