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’s 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
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:
Updated: Sep 4, 2018