Chilliwack-area election hopefuls won't make it past the May 14 provincial election without taking a stand on local water issues, if a local water advocacy group has its way.
Before Election Day, the Chilliwack-based WaterWealth Project plans to present candidates with a declaration outlining local concerns about water and challenge them to sign on.
"When a given candidate is elected, if they make some kind of commitment to [the declaration], then it's a way of holding them accountable once they're in office," WaterWealth community organizer Natalie Jones told the Times.
Her organization's volunteers are busy in Chilliwack this week conducting public surveys that will provide data for both the declaration and an electronic community map of the area's "water wealth."
Equipped with iPads, the volunteers will be around town asking residents questions and inviting them to add to the community map by dropping a virtual pushpin onto a favourite local water spot on it and telling a story or a favourite memory about it.
Responses so far have ranged from one man's memory of watching Kokanee spawning with his wife to descriptions of favourite fishing spots.
When Jones thinks of local water wealth, she thinks Chilliwack Lake. For WaterWealth director and Greendale native Sheila Muxlow, it's the Vedder Canal.
There's already plenty of public opinion research to show local residents care about water, Jones said, but people feel "disempowered" under the current system.
The goal of WaterWealth's survey and mapping project is to amplify community concerns about water and, ultimately, press for laws that would give local residents 100 per cent community control when it comes to decisions that impact local waters.
"We think that the people who will make decisions in the best interest of our water are the people who consider these their home waters," Jones said. "People in Victoria and Ottawa, this isn't their home, why should they make decisions about it for the long-term wellbeing of it?"
Weather permitting, Water-Wealth Project volunteers will be on the Rotary Trail by the Vedder Bridge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and the Spring Market (615 Wellington Ave.) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
To fill out the WaterWealth survey online, visit www.waterwealthproject. com and click on the "share your story" button.