Water Act

Alberta has significantly updated its water legislation, to better manage and protect its water and to streamline water-related administrative processes.

Key features of the Water Act:

  • Protect existing water licences in good standing
  • Protect existing traditional agricultural uses of water through a grandfather clause
  • Recognize the priority of household water use as a statutory right
  • Ensure sustainability of Alberta's water by requiring a provincial water management planning framework
  • Allow for water management plans to be developed to address local and regional issues
  • Recognize the importance of protecting Alberta's rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands, by requiring that a strategy for the aquatic environment be developed as part of the provincial water management planning framework
  • Provides a streamlined, one-window licensing and approval process for water-related activities and diversions
  • Allow for flexible water management in areas where available water is already allocated, by providing the ability to transfer water licences
  • Provides a transparent and rigorous process before a licence is granted to export water outside of Canada
  • Provides a transparent and rigorous process before a licence is granted to transfer water between Alberta‚Äôs major river basins
  • Encourage cooperation and proactive measures to resolve water management problems
  • Provide a wide range of enforcement measures
  • Give Albertans the opportunity to provide advice on, and to understand water management

New licences
All new licences will have an expiry date. The term of a licence depends on criteria specified in regulations. When a licence expires, its holder is required to apply for a renewal. The onus is on the Alberta government to provide reasons for non-renewal of a licence.

Transfers of an allocation
In areas of Alberta where available water is fully or nearly fully allocated a transfer system allows accommodation of new or alternative users. A transfer may only occur where an approved water management plan or an Order of Cabinet provides for this. Any transfer is subject to the same review process as a new licence application.

The Water Act has two Regulations: Water (Ministerial) and Water (Offences and Penalties). Copies are available through:


If you have further questions about the Water Act, please contact:


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Updated: Sep 4, 2018