Environmental flows, also known as instream flows, or instream flow needs, describes the quantity, timing and quality of
water flow required to sustain freshwater ecosystems and the human livelihoods and well-being that depend on these ecosystems.
About Alberta’s Environmental Flows Program
The Environmental Flows Program helps protect healthy water flow by:
- providing policy recommendations
- conducting environmental flow studies
- researching aquatic and riparian habitat
- reviewing water licence applications
- working with other agencies and Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils to set flow and water standards that support
healthy fish and wildlife populations
To accomplish these goals, our team
- provides departmental coordination and scientific expertise
- carries out data collection
- analyses data, and
- supports water management studies as needed to comply with provincial and federal laws.
Who does the Environmental Flows Program work with?
The team works with:
- other provincial departments
- the federal government
- local stakeholders including the Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPAC) throughout the province and universities
Water for Life
The Government of Alberta has released the Water for Life action plan, the roadmap that the government
and its partners will follow over the next 10 years.
Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs)
Major partners in the Water for Life initiative are the Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs),
which are multi-stakeholder, non-profit organizations that assess the conditions of their watershed and develop plans and activities to address watershed issues.
Alberta Environmental Law Centre
The Environmental Law Centre believes that to make the law and legal processes work to protect the environment
accurate environmental law information and an understanding of the implications of policy and development.
Cumulative Environmental Management Association
The Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) is an independent collaborative organization
that develops recommendations
on how best to reduce potential long-term environmental impacts from industrial development in northeastern
CEMA consists of over 40 organizations with a shared interest in protecting the environment in the region.
include Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and other government agencies, industry, First Nations/aboriginals,
University of Alberta – Department of
Civil and Environmental Engineering
The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alberta developed the River2D
model, a two-dimensional
model that predicts the changes in water flow and assists in evaluating fish habitat.
This tool is used extensively in Alberta and is used elsewhere throughout North America for studying
Instream Flow Council
The Instream Flow Council (IFC) represents the interests of Canadian and American fish and wildlife management agencies
to improve the effectiveness of their environmental or instream flow programs.
The council is an international organization made up of provincial and state fish and wildlife agencies. Its mission is
to help provincial and state fish and wildlife management agencies establish, maintain, and administer effective programs
to protect instream flows for aquatic resources.
The SRD Fish and Wildlife Division has been a member of the council since its inception and continues to actively participate
in the council. This allows the Division to continuously improve the scientific techniques employed and to share the discoveries
from other jurisdictions.
The Nature Conservancy
Through their Sustainable Waters Program, The Nature Conservancy provides global leadership in environmental flow science and management.
- State Fish and Wildlife Agency Instream/Environmental Flow Needs Programs:
Stream Systems Technology Center
The Stream Systems Technology Center USDA Forest Service - SSTC, or "STREAM TEAM" is a US national technical center working to
- improve knowledge of stream systems and watershed hydrology
- develop operational tools and technology
- provide training and technical support
- identify research needs to coordinate the development of technology to secure favorable water flow conditions
United States Geological Survey (USGS) – Fort Collins Science Center’s Aquatic Systems Branch
Scientists in the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s Aquatic Systems Branch conduct research and modeling, develop decision-support
systems, and provide technical assistance on natural resource management problems dealing with environmental flows and water
quality, threatened and endangered aquatic species, and habitat associated with freshwater aquatic communities.
Branch scientists investigate how the various aspects of aquatic and riverine ecosystems are affected by changes in flow,
sediment, invasive species, and climate.
Updated: Feb 25, 2016