Provincial Government

  • Andy Ridge: Our Water. Our Future. A Conversation with Albertans.

    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. 

  • Bill Wahl: Flood Recovery and/or Flood Prevention

    The following is an  pdf open letter  addressed to the citizens of Alberta, from Bill Wahl of Medicine Hat. The letter expresses how Mr. Wahl has been affected by floods, but also points out how water in Alberta is being managed and areas for improvement. Have a read and please continue to share your thoughts with us through FacebookTwitter or Email. Thanks for sharing, Mr. Wahl!

    An open letter to the Citizens of Alberta

    Flood Recovery and/or Flood Prevention


    My name is Bill Wahl and I am frustrated!!

    Like others in Medicine Hat and Southern Alberta we live in proximity of the South Saskatchewan River [have for 40 years] and have been affected by flooding, all-be-it not this year due to the installation of a high tech backflow preventer after the 1995 flood. We are thankful to family and friends who helped us move out of our home and for better preparedness of disaster services.

    The main reason for my frustration is that I always thought that the dams on the tributaries of the South Saskatchewan River were there in part to help us out during times of impending floods. The Alberta Government meetings after the ’95 flood reported that flooding was caused by a severe precipitation event that occurred in very close proximity to the Oldman River Dam. That and a combination of technical issues caused by washed out flow sensors, telephone communications and the short time from onset of precipitation to significant increases in inflow did not give dam operators sufficient time to spill water ahead of high water entering the dam. Although dam safety was never an issue, water was released from the dam at a rate no greater then inflow.  So what happened this year?  According to records obtained from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, the 2013 peak was ~5590 cm3/s and the 1995 peak was ~4200 cm3/s. The gauging station reports of the 2013 peak was more than 1m higher than 1995.  The cross section of the river valley at other locations will affect this value to some extent. Levels in Medicine Hat never reached those predicted with an increase of 50 cm3/s increase in flow rate over 1995 reported.  Persons who experienced the 1995 levels commented on water levels about 20 cm higher; all this being enough to cause significantly damage in Medicine Hat. How is it that the dam[s] that impact our flow rate could not have done more to mitigate flood issues this year given the knowledge gained from the ’95 flood, and  new technologies for weather forecasting? We have experienced more floods in the past 20 years than the first 20 years of living by the river.

  • Guest Columnist: Lorne Taylor

    Water Challenges in Oil Sands Country: Alberta's Water for Life Strategy

    In 2003, the Government of Alberta launched its Water for Life Strategy in pursuit of the three interrelated goals of ensuring a safe and secure drinking water supply, improving the health of aquatic ecosystems, and ensuring a sustainable an prosperous economy. Six years later, what has the strategy improved, if anything? 

    Lorne Taylor, who is currently chair of the Alberta Water Research Institute and who fathered the strategy as Alberta environment minister in the early 2000s, presents a report card. Innovation and research will be vital to improving water management practices, especially when it comes to oil sand production, he says, and it will require leadership as well as significant financial investments. Fortunately, he concludes, “the province currently has both, and will reap tangible and meaningful benefits as a result.”

    If you were to ask Canadians what they believe is the most important public policy issue related to water today, many would no doubt say it is a fear that the government is planning to sell Canada’s water to the United States or other countries. Others might express concerns about how Alberta’s oil sands and other industries are overusing or contaminating water supplies.

    In reality, the number one issue related to water in Canada is the urgent need to change how we all think about and manage water today if we are to protect and sustain our water supply for future generations.

    Water, along with climate change, is one of the most important and talked about environmental issues of our day. At the same time, it is also a topic that to date has seen more talk than action in Canada, in part because of the perception, or perhaps misperception, that we have an abundant and unlimited supply of fresh water. The truth is Canada does have more water than most countries, but most of Canada’s freshwater supplies are located in northern Canada — a place that has one third of our land mass, but less than 1 percent of our population. Therefore, the question remains as to how much of that water is actually available and accessible for our use as drinking water, in agricultural production, for industrial use or for maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

  • Guest Columnist: Ron Wallace

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


    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).

  • How's the Water?

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

    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.