Date01 September 2019
AuthorSurtees, Jeff

Water Regulation in Alberta: 5 Things You Need to Know

Water plus Earth, Wind and Fire. No... it's not a day at the beach with a great band from Chicago. These are the names of the four classical elements, which in ancient times were thought to explain the nature of how the world worked. They are also the subjects of the next four LawNow Environmental Law columns--the regulation of water, land, air and fire under Alberta law. In each case, we are going to look at five things that I think are interesting and important to think about to get a feel for the area.

We will start this time with water.

  1. Alberta water law isn't found in one place.

    Just like the Facebook relationship status of that one wild friend that everyone has, the law about the use of water is complicated. It's a mixture of common law (including riparian rights, drainage rights and nuisance) modified by written statutes, written regulations and policies put in place by the federal, provincial and municipal governments.

    The main provincial statute that deals with granting water licenses and how much water a licence holder can use (called an allocation) is Alberta's Water Act. Under that statute, the government can approve a water management plan for a river basin. So far there are approved plans in place for the South Saskatchewan River basin and the Battle River basin. Other important provincial statues containing provisions that could affect water in some way include:

    * the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act,

    * the Municipal Government Act,

    * the Public Lands Act,

    * the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (and the regional plans created under it),

    * the Irrigation Districts Act,

    * the Forests Act,

    * the Wildlife Act, and

    * many of the regulations and plans created under the above statutes.

    Other important provincial rules come from the Alberta Water for Life strategy, the Alberta Wetland Policy and various codes of practice put in place for different industries and activities. Important federal statutes include the Fisheries Act, the Navigation Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act and the new Impact Assessment Act. Municipalities also create bylaws to regulate water use, treatment and disposal. These bylaws can impact things as varied as preserving wetlands within a city's boundaries to regulating people watering their lawns or washing their cars on the street.

    Another wave of complication comes when rivers flow across borders. We covered how the United States and...

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