PUBLISHED: 20 September 2018

About the Athabasca River Basin Initiative

The Sustainable Water Management in the Athabasca River Basin Initiative (the ARB Initiative or Initiative) was an innovative project to identify water management issues, assess opportunities, and propose ways to build resilience to change. It examined surface water quantity in the Athabasca River mainstem and major tributaries, considering implications of changes in streamflow for certain water quality parameters as well as the effects of basin landscape and climate change on streamflow.

An inclusive and diverse Working Group comprising representatives from across the basin openly shared knowledge, experience, perspectives, and ideas for a well-managed watershed in the ARB. The group used a collaborative modelling process and an integrated modelling tool (the Athabasca Integrated River Model or AIRM) to inform and drive the discussion. The AIRM enabled the Working Group to explore mitigation, adaptation, and management opportunities in response to a range of potential climate, land use, and development changes in the ARB. Participants, many of whom had disparate goals, could then design strategies to examine how individual or cumulative changes in land use, climate, and river systems affected water availability and identify solutions that satisfied their objectives. The Working Group included:

  • First Nations and Métis communities
  • Federal and Provincial Governments and related agencies
  • Municipalities, Counties and Districts
  • Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs)
  • Environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs)
  • Industry (coal, agriculture, oil and gas, forestry, oil sands, utility companies)

The Working Group identified 10 challenges facing the region and subsequently proposed 12 strategies to address them. The modelling was then used to illustrate the strategy and results, and to support discussion on the benefits, trade-offs, implementation feasibility, and an assessment as to whether the strategy was most promising, least promising, or uncertain. The 12 strategies and the six recommendations for sustainable water management in the ARB are outlined at a high level below.

Download the Summary Article here  ARB Initiative Summary Article (accessed February, 13th, 2024).

Download the Slides here  ARB Initiative Slide Presentation (accessed February, 13th, 2024).

Download the Final Report here  ARB Initiative Final Report (accessed February, 13th, 2024).

If you are interested in additional information on each of the strategies or the ARB Initiative, please click here to see a online compilation of the final report and other information available.