Water-sharing negotiations start on Feb. 1

Feb 06, 2024

Alberta relies on melting snow and rain for all of its water. This winter, snowpack is below average, rivers are at record low levels and multiple reservoirs remain well below capacity.

As a result, for the first time since 2001, Alberta’s government has authorized the Drought Command Team to begin negotiations with major water licence holders to strike water-sharing agreements in the Red Deer River, Bow River and Old Man River basins. If a severe drought occurs, these agreements would see major users use less water to help others downstream.

“Starting Feb. 1, the Drought Command Team will begin negotiations with major water licence holders throughout Alberta to secure significant and timely reductions in water use. This effort will be the largest water-sharing negotiation to have ever occurred in Alberta’s history. I want to thank licence holders for coming to the table – your generosity, ingenuity and participation in this effort reflects the very best of our province.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas
"Drought is something our farmers and ranchers have experienced before. Based on that experience, our irrigators and agricultural producers have done an amazing job to manage their operations during tough times. I also want to be clear, that Alberta producers are leaders in water conservation, environmental stewardship, and I am proud of the work they do. As always, Alberta’s government is doing everything we can to help producers impacted by drought, and our producers have always stepped up to work together to build solutions that are in the interest of the entire province."

RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation
In Alberta, there are 25,000 organizations and businesses that hold licences for 9.5 billion cubic metres of water. The Drought Command Team will select and prioritize negotiations with Alberta’s largest water licence holders in an effort to secure significant and timely reductions in water use.

To help manage water during previous shortages, individuals and groups have worked together to share available water. However, the scope and scale of the collaborative work underway and being proposed is unprecedented in Alberta’s history.

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