Septic Sense: Solutions for Rural Living

The Septic Sense program continues in Alberta! Read on to learn how this program is helping to protect the environment by raising awareness with rural landowners about the proper management and maintenance of private septic systems.

Septic systems may not be a great dinner party conversation, however, knowing how to manage and maintain your private sewage system is an important aspect of sustainable rural living. Educating yourself about how to properly care for your septic system preserves your property values and ultimately, ensures harmful substances don’t infiltrate Alberta’s groundwater or water-bodies.

The last Alberta census shows that rural residential landowners represent 14% of Alberta’s population, and many of those rural residents have private septic systems. According to Alberta Municipal Affairs, every day the average person contributes 340 litres of sewage through a private sewage system (septic system). For a family of four living in a two-bedroom house, that amounts to 1,360 litres per day and just under half a million litres per year!

Owners of private sewage systems are responsible for ensuring their systems operate properly and safely. The decisions of those property owners about how to manage and maintain their septic systems have the potential to have a significant cumulative effect on the Alberta landscape. Historically, there have been limited resources and support directed specifically to educating property owners on how to manage these important systems.

In response to this need, since 2015, Land Stewardship Centre, in cooperation with the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association (AOWMA), has been delivering the Septic Sense program. The Septic Sense workshop is a comprehensive information session, supported with take-home resources, that enhances local accountability for water resource management through education and engagement with landowners who have private wastewater systems on their property.

Public education is an important component of a successful wastewater industry, and we are pleased to be a part of the process,” says Lesley Desjardins, Executive Director at AOWMA.

The highly successful workshop series has been offered in over 40 different municipalities across Alberta, reaching almost 2,000 people and has helped to raise awareness of responsible stewardship practices to realtors and landowners, alike.

Jeff Porter, Agricultural Fieldman with MD of Foothills has said there has been a lot of interest in the workshops from residents, because septic systems remain a mystery to many people who live on farms and acreages.

With funding and support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), in 2018, LSC and AOWMA hosted 30 free workshops for landowners and Realtors in Alberta to better understand how to manage their rural property and mitigate negative impacts on the landscape from improperly managed septic systems. This support from AREF was crucial to delivering the workshops this year. LSC and AOWMA are very grateful to AREF for their support, and for seeing value in this educational initiative which has provided important information and resources to rural landowners, Realtors and municipalities across Alberta.

Now, with a couple of years of successful workshops complete, and a positive reputation in the community, Septic Sense has evolved and will now be offered on a cost-recovery (fee-for service) basis that will allow AOWMA to sustain the program in the future. Going forward, AOWMA will continue raising awareness of best management practices to many more Realtors and Albertans, to create sustainable communities and foster a healthy environment. Please contact AOWMA directly if your organization or municipality is interested in hosting a Septic Sense workshop.


Lesley Desjardins, Executive Director of AOWMA, giving a Septic Sense presentation in Leduc County. (photo from the PipeStone Flyer)


Everyone needs space: SpaceFinder Alberta

Everyone needs space, whether it’s to hold an event, to create, to teach, or simply somewhere to meet, but how do you find the space you need? One word: SpaceFinder.

SpaceFinder Alberta links organizations with space to rent to those who need space. This helps a variety of organizations and venues efficiently find suitable users for their under-used space, and those who are looking for short-term rentals, through this free-to-list, free-to-search online tool.

SpaceFinder Alberta works as a multifaceted tool, offering a free marketing platform that assists venues and space owners find the right renters for their space, meanwhile tracking for when and what purpose a space is being used. SpaceFinder Alberta also acts as a database, it gathers data and generates reports though Fractured Atlas. SpaceFinder contains information of both existing and desired spaces, and it encompasses relevant policies, and provides information pertaining to which organizations are operating in a given community.

SpaceFinder helps minimize the time spent fielding calls and emails about features and specifications of a space, but does not change any current booking systems that are in place for the venue. Whether the booking method is a link to the rental form, an email address, or merely a phone number to contact the booking representative, nothing changes with a listing on SpaceFinder.

SpaceFinder Alberta makes finding space an easy and efficient task that anyone can do, while delivering the specific requirements that the owners, and organizations request. As a result, SpaceFinder delivers real financial impacts to our communities through increased revenues for organizations from the streamlined rental processes, and increased stimulation of under-used spaces. Communities themselves thrive when their members are able to live, create, and celebrate within their own neighborhood, alongside their neighbors.

List your space, or find a space for your next event at Keeping track of all Alberta’s oil and gas wells

Oil and gas wells have been drilled across Alberta for decades. While the Alberta Energy Regulator keeps track of all the wells and what company is drilling for what, the where question hasn’t been easy for an ordinary Albertan, or someone thinking of buying a property, to inquire about any wells that may be nearby. Until now.

Joel Gehman, a professor in the School of Business at the University of Alberta, has built, a website loaded with information about each of the roughly 600,000 oil and gas wells that dot the landscape of Alberta. “These wells could be operating, and actively producing. Or they could be in some stage of inactivity or even just in the early stages where they’re just being licensed and drilled,” says Gehman. “Every well has a biography. The website is trying to tell the story of each individual well and provide the full chronology of what’s happened there.”

Gehman first started collecting data about wells back in 2013 as part of his research into how corporations respond to concerns around sustainability. Recently, with $35,000 of funding from AREF, Gehman hired a project manager and two software engineering students to help him expand the site and add thousands of pages of information. The new data of Alberta oil and gas wells went live in December, 2018. “The goal for the project is to simply make it easier for the average citizen to learn information about oil and gas activity that’s happening in their community, neighborhood or backyard,” says Gehman.

If you see a well somewhere, all you have to do is make note of the company name and well identification number on the signage at the well pad, and use that information to find the well on the website.  Information about that particular well will pop up—when they started and finished drilling, a map, the depth of the well, and license number.  When you search by company name, you also see all the other wells it operates.  You can also search by location.

“Resources like WellWiki allow folks on both sides of a real estate transaction to understand what’s happening on the land,” says Gehman. “There are many things involved in a real estate transaction, this isn’t necessarily going to be the biggest one, but it’s an important piece of awareness to have.” In some cases, when the well was drilled it was in the middle of a farmer’s field, but new neighborhoods are moving into the area. “That’s not the well’s fault,” he says. “That’s the urban sprawl. But nonetheless, as that happens, the people moving into those neighborhoods may want to be aware of what’s happening in adjacent parcels of land.”

The original website was getting about 10,000 visits a year—including from people working at oil and gas companies. The new and improved will likely see more visitors from outside the energy industry. “The target user for this website is anyone who has an interest in oil and gas activity in their community.”

For more information, please visit WellWiki


CPLEA: Albertan Condo Law

Overview of the Laws for Landlords and Tenants website

The Laws for Landlords and Tenants website ( provides plain language information on residential tenancies law for landlords, tenants and service providers in Alberta. With up-to-date information and over 50 free publications and resources, the website attracts over 631,000 visits per year, reaching 1 in 6 Albertans!

The Laws for Landlords and Tenants website is part of the Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program (RTLIP) at the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (operating as the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta “CPLEA”). RTLIP consists of a number of other activities such as:

  • Developing new information and resources on emerging residential tenancies issues
  • Providing information and referral services
  • Conducting community outreach
  • Delivering presentations on renting law
  • Contributing to law and policy development on residential tenancies issues

CPLEA is a non-profit organization that provides legal information, education, training, research and consulting services. CPLEA has many programs, projects and resources, including 13 different websites and over 150 publications, on a wide variety of justice and legal issues. For more information about CPLEA’s other programs and projects, please visit

Funding for the Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program is generously provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Overview of the Condo Law for Albertans website

Launched in 2016, the Condo Law for Albertans website ( provides plain language information on condominium law for condo buyers, owners and board members in Alberta. With up-to-date information and over 21 free publications and resources, the website attracts over 75,000 visits (and growing!) per year.

The Condo Law for Albertans website is part of the Condo Law for Albertans Project at the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (operating as the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta “CPLEA”). CPLEA is a non-profit organization that provides legal information, education, training, research and consulting services. CPLEA has many programs, projects and resources, including 13 different websites and over 150 publications, on a wide variety of justice and legal issues. For more information about CPLEA’s other programs and projects, please visit

Funding for the Condo Law for Albertans Project is generously provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Using the Canadian Rental Housing Index to inform community-based planning

The Canadian Rental Housing Index has contributed to a diverse range of planning, policy, and advocacy materials. These materials are all being used to shape affordable housing policy in different ways so that the needs of renters are being taken into account.

While there are many examples of where the Index is being used, one excellent example of its impact is the Community Developer’s Toolkit by an organization called New Commons Development. The organization is a non-profit real estate development company that works with the community housing sector to develop new affordable housing assets. Recognizing the need for the non-profit sector to play a greater role in developing a range of affordable housing options for low- and middle-income groups, the Toolkit provides critical information for affordable housing stakeholders to consider when acquiring, redeveloping, and developing affordable housing sites. The Toolkit is informed by the principle that affordable housing should be a community-based asset, and remain affordable in perpetuity.

The free online Toolkit walks users through the steps needed to consider when undertaking an affordable housing project, which include using CRHI data to inform a need and demand study, understanding the categories of need in a community, and developing the financial planning to execute the project. The Toolkit is a success because it will be used to inform the development and preservation of community-based assets in urban land markets where affordable housing is increasingly difficult to locate. Resources such as this guide are important because they are focused specifically on the community housing sector and provide important information for non-technical audiences to move projects forward.

This informs a larger philosophical question about the role of the non-profit sector in affordable housing provision. Historically, non-profit housing has been seen as only an option for low-income income households who cannot and do not have their needs met by the private market. There is a shifting understanding that the non-profit sector can be involved in providing housing for middle-income groups as well. By removing the profit motive from housing, we can treat it as a community asset that will remain affordable in perpetuity. This is a shift in thinking from seeing housing as a private investment for individual gain. Rather the toolkit positions the non-profit housing sector as a solution to the housing crisis, and in using Index data, it directly informs the impact BCNPHA and community housing sector would like to see.

Visit the Canadian Rental Housing Index here.