September 11, 2006

Long-term plan for managing south Alberta water supply balances economic demands, conservation

The Alberta government has approved a long-term vision for managing the water supply for the southern part of the province. The South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) Water Management Plan - the first of its kind in Alberta - recommends new ways of managing water resources to help balance economic needs with environmental conservation. As part of the plan, Alberta Environment will no longer accept applications for new water allocations in the Bow, Oldman, and South Saskatchewan sub-basins until the Environment Minister specifies, through a Crown Reservation, how water not currently allocated is to be used. Water allocations may still be obtained through water allocation transfers.

"This is a monumental and significant decision that clearly demonstrates this government's commitment to protecting our watersheds, while sustaining our economy," said Environment Minister Guy Boutilier.

The initiative has the support of over 80% of southern Alberta water users who were involved in the planning process, including industry, environmental, and local community leaders. The water management plan reflects a balance between protecting the aquatic environment and the amount of river water required for economic development in the South Saskatchewan River basin. It provides guidance to decision-makers and acts as a foundation for developing watershed management plans for sub-basins in the region.

The SSRB plan was developed to safeguard existing water users' supply while protecting the aquatic environment, as outlined in Alberta's Water for Life policy document. The plan reflects recommendations made by four basin advisory committees, along with consultation with stakeholders and the general public.

Other recommendations contained in the SSRB Water Management Plan call for water to be allocated from the Crown Reservation only for:

* water conservation objectives;

* water storage of peak flow;

* First Nations Reserves; and

* licences and registrations that may be issued for applications and registrations pending at the date of the Crown Reservation. (This does not necessarily imply approval, but ensures that the pending applications and registration will be reviewed.)

When allocations in the Red Deer River sub-basin reach 550,000 cubic decametres, a thorough review will be conducted to identify the maximum allocation limit.

More information, including the full water management plan, a summary of highlights, and public consultation results may be viewed on the Alberta Environment Web site, www.environment.gov.ab.ca.

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