For the past two years, three rural municipalities in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies have been working together to promote sustainability in their communities. The towns share the belief that water is an integral part of the community; they have formed a Tri Community Watershed Initiative to help manage their shared resource. Activities of the Initiative include changing municipal policies, writing municipal water, and river valley management plans, working with partners, hosting community events and engaging local media in community success stories. The towns are also assisting residents in outdoor water conservation efforts. To date, 100 percent of the households -- more than 15,000 residents in approximately 6,000 households -- have participated in community-wide water conservation campaigns that protect the local watershed.
The Initiative has improved local policy and decision-making through a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach that delivers ecological monitoring science in a manner that improves knowledge in the decision-making process. Involvement of town councilors in this ecological monitoring initiative has allowed local decision makers to gain awareness and knowledge that has led to action on community environmental watershed issues and increased community capacity.
Decisions made at local and landscape scales have a direct impact on sustainability. This Initiative has succeeded in ensuring that choices are informed and reflect the collective values of the community. By identifying values and defining sustainability, the communities have been empowered to monitor progress and feed into adaptive decision- making processes. The framework and best practices the towns have developed for engaging communities will be discussed as well as lessons learned.