Alberta Reaches Historic Water-Sharing Agreements to Combat Severe Drought Risk

Alberta announces historic water-sharing agreements to mitigate severe drought, with municipalities, industries, and irrigation districts voluntarily reducing consumption to ensure reliable water supply.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Alberta Reaches Historic Water-Sharing Agreements to Combat Severe Drought Risk

Alberta Reaches Historic Water-Sharing Agreements to Combat Severe Drought Risk

The Alberta government has announced major water-sharing agreements in the province's history with major water licence holders in the Red Deer, Bow, and Oldman River sub-basins. The agreements aim to reduce water consumption by 5-10% in participating municipalities and irrigation districts due to the severe drought risk facing the province.

Alberta is experiencing its fourth year of drought, and the agreements will allow water users to voluntarily reduce their water use to ensure a reliable water supply. 38 of the largest and oldest water licensees, representing up to 90% of the water allocated in the Bow and Oldman basins and 70% in the Red Deer River basin, have voluntarily agreed to the reductions.

Under the new agreements, municipalities will voluntarily reduce water consumption, while industry will use the minimum amount of water needed for reliable operations. Irrigation districts, which account for 46% of Alberta's water allocation, have also agreed to utilize less water by allowing other users to receive their share and dividing up what is left.

Why this matters: These historic water-sharing agreements demonstrate Alberta's proactive approach to managing its precious water resources in the presence of worsening drought conditions. The voluntary reductions by major southern water users will help mitigate the impact of the expected severe drought on communities, the economy, and the environment across the province.

The agreements are designed to be proactive, risk-based, and adjustable based on changing water supply conditions. The level of Alberta's snowpack in late April will be crucial in determining when the water-sharing agreements need to be activated. Some municipalities, like the City of Red Deer, have already begun proactively reducing water use.

However, critics argue that the non-binding agreements may not be enough to address the root cause of the drought, which is human-caused climate change. The Alberta Wilderness Association wants the province to declare a Stage 5 emergency under the Water Act, which would give it more power to restrict water use and protect ecosystems.

"The collaborative effort involves municipalities, industries, and irrigation districts, with a commitment to prioritize water allocation and ensure equitable access among users," said Environment Minister Sonya Savage. The province will actively monitor conditions, issue warnings, and optimize water storage to mitigate the impact of the expected severe drought.

Key Takeaways

  • Alberta announces major water-sharing agreements to reduce consumption by 5-10%.
  • 38 largest water licensees in 3 river basins agree to voluntary reductions.
  • Municipalities, industry, and irrigation districts to utilize less water during drought.
  • Agreements aim to mitigate impact of severe drought on communities and environment.
  • Critics argue non-binding agreements may not address root cause of climate change.