The Bog

The Bog is where thoughts, opinions, discussion pieces, and action converge. Influential thinkers from the water community are invited to share their insights on current or controversial water topics. Please note that the views expressed herein are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Alberta WaterPortal.

Republished with permission of the publisher from the April 2013 PEG magazine.  You can view original article by clicking here (2.42 MB)

Ten years in, Alberta’s innovation Water for Life strategy has created successful approaches while balancing often competing interests. But will it be enough for the coming decades? Albertans close to the system that links stewards and water councils to province-wide goals weigh in on its successes, its challenges and its shortfalls.

By Bill Corbett
Freelance Writer

Growing up in southeast Alberta, Lorne Taylor, PHD, would tour the family ranch and see  cattle dugouts drying up during periods of drought. At such times, Medicine Hat residents on one side of the street could water their gardens one day, those on the other side the next. If Dr. Taylor’s mother mistakenly watered on the wrong day, there came a reminding knock on the door from a neighbour.

“I grew up with an appreciation for the value of water,” he says. So when Dr. Taylor became Alberta’s environment minister in 2001, crafting a long-term strategy for managing and safeguarding the province’s water resources quickly became a priority. But first he wanted input from ranchers, environmentalists and industry officials — “real people, not just academics. I wanted it driven from the community up, not from the government down. If you’re going to do that properly, if you truly want to listen, it takes time.”

Guided by this stakeholder input, the province’s Water for Life strategy was unveiled in 2003. It was, and still is, intended to achieve three main goals, which are 

  • safe, secure drinking water
  • healthy aquatic ecosystems
  • reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy.

Dr. Taylor, who retired from elected provincial office in 2004, summarizes the goals this way: they’re about meeting the water needs of people, the environment and the economy.  

“Water for Life” was heralded as one of the first strategies of its kind to take a comprehensive, holistic and watershed-based approach to looking at water, to engage citizens and to do all this proactively,” says Andy Ridge, directory of the water policy division of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. Most other leaders were in place like Australia or Nevada, with no water. To do this without a water crisis was kind of unique.

Albertans are passionate about water.   From majestic mountain waterfalls to astonishing coulees, Alberta’s diverse landscapes inspire and draw tourists from all over the globe.  Citizens, communities, businesses, and the agricultural and energy sectors have been engaged in a discussion about water for over a hundred years.   We take water seriously in Alberta and many consider it to be our most important resource.  Alberta has a bright economic future and is a great place to live for the more than 3.7 million people that call it home.  This is due in no small part to the stewardship and wise management of our water resources. 

Alberta has a rich history of water management and water stewardship.  In 1931, Alberta passed the Water Resources Act, which declared water to be the property of the province and granted abilities to use the water through a licence.  In 1999, Alberta passed the Water Act which includes a Framework for Water Management Planning and a Strategy for the Protection of the Aquatic Environment where the Government of Alberta affirms its commitment to not only maintaining and restoring the natural environment, but enhancing it. 

This year, Alberta celebrates the 10 year anniversary of the Water for Life strategy. Noteworthy achievements of Water for Life include the establishment of eleven Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils across Alberta where committed members conduct education and stewardship activities throughout their watersheds and partake in the development of basin water assessment and planning.  In addition, under the strategy, all major water using sectors in Alberta have prepared conservation, efficiency and productivity plans that outline actions each sector will take to reduce demand for and conserve water. 

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) has been running a consultation process with the public (that means you!) on the use of water in Alberta.

AESRD has identified four main topics of interest based on input they have received from various stakeholders leading up the conversation.

Those topics are:

  • Healthy lakes;
  • Hydraulic Fracturing and Water;
  • Drinking Water and Wastewater Systems; and
  • Water Management.

A conversation guide (5.8 MB) has been put together by AESRD, summarizing their thoughts on these topics; with an ask for your input on where to go next.

Most of the ways to participate have been wrapped up. However you still can participate by:

  • Provide feedback through This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by April 19th, and
  • Follow and participate in the discussion on AESRD’s blog and Twitter.

Regardless of the feedback you may have, we at the WaterPortal highly recommend that you make your thoughts heard through any one, or more, of the channels listed above.

Stay tuned to our news section for updates on what is happening with water in the province.

Nanotechnology could help in reducing the environmental footprints of Alberta oilsands industry

Nanoscrubbers for air emission capture, nanoadsorbents for adsorptive removal of waste and hydrocarbons, and nanocatalysts for catalytic steam gasification of asphaltenes and naphthenic acid for improving oil quality and water recyclability.

The oilsands recovery and upgrading with the current processes are more water and energy intensive; as a result more pollution is created, such as heavier residue, wastewater, solids waste, and air emissions. This has resulted in opportunities for development of new technologies that improve heavy oil recovery, minimize the use of energy and water-based processes and reduce the air emissions with lower cost services. Nanotechnology, which is relatively a new area of science, presents new opportunities for reducing the environmental footprints of oilsands industry. The name nano comes from the size of molecules which is measured in nanometers or one billionth of a meter (1  10-9 meter). Nanoparticles are one of the important examples on nanotechnology applications. Due to their unique properties, nanoparticles can be used to sustain oilsands industry through the development of greener processes with cost-effective approach.

History And Governance As A Blueprint For Future Federal-Provincial Co-operation On Environmental Monitoring In The Alberta Oil Sands Region

Overview

The environmental impacts associated with existing and proposed developments in the Alberta oil sands development region have received unprecedented national, and international, attention. The oil sands represent a strategic resource of importance to Alberta, Canada and indeed to the international energy trading community. The present and future potential magnitude of developments required to extract, upgrade and transport the oil have, for better or worse, vaulted the oil sands region into the realms of international economic, social, environmental and political attention. Accordingly, both the federal and provincial governments have increasingly focussed their attention to creating or expanding environmental monitoring and research programs in the oil sands region of Alberta.

At a time when new approaches to scientific monitoring programs are being reviewed, it may be useful to recall that there is an extensive, and successful, history of scientific and policy co-ordination between Alberta and Canada in regard to oil sands environmental assessment and management programs in the province. Past Federal-Provincial agreements have recognized the overlapping jurisdictional responsibilities and governments responsibly have sought to achieve management and financial efficiencies to harmonize, if not resolve, these overlaps.

Here, past management models and agreements are reviewed, with particular attention paid to the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program (AOSERP) (1975 to 1980) and the Northern River Basins Study Board (NRBS) (1991 -1996).