Athabasca River Water Management Framework

Lower Athabasca Region Surface Water Quantity Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River

Development of the Framework

In 2007, Alberta set strict limits on how much water oil sands companies could remove from the Athabasca River through the Water Management Framework: Instream Flows Needs and Water Management System for the Lower Athabasca River, achieving a high level of protection that was balanced with the needs of the community and industry. The 2007 Water Management Framework provided short-term guidance for the management of cumulative water withdrawals from the lower Athabasca River and included a set of weekly flow triggers and water withdrawal limits.

In 2015, the Lower Athabasca Region Surface Water Quantity Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River (the Framework) updated and replaced the 2007 Water Management Framework.

Regional Objective for Surface Water Quantity

In support of the outcomes of the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan, the Framework establishes the following regional objective for surface water quantity:

"Cumulative water withdrawals will be managed to support human and ecosystem needs, considering an acceptable balance between social, environmental, and economic interests."

- Source: Lower Athabasca Region Surface Water Quantity Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River, Page 23

To support achievement of the objective, the Framework identifies indicators of both the condition of the water resource (natural variations in water flow) and of pressure on the water resources (use).

Triggers and Limits

The Framework establishes weekly management triggers and water withdrawal limits to enable proactive management of mineable oil sands water use from the Athabasca River. These weekly management triggers and associated water withdrawal limits reflect seasonal variability and become more restrictive as flows in the river decrease.

In addition to the weekly management triggers, the Framework introduces a series of adaptive management triggers that will indicate when river flow and water use conditions are close to-, or outside of-, the range of predicted future conditions used in modelling and development of the weekly management triggers and water withdrawal limits. Adaptive management triggers will direct a management response process, led by Alberta Environment and Parks.

Oil sands operators develop and submit annual Oil Sands Mining Water Management Agreements as identified in the Framework.

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Updated: Jun 26, 2018