Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy recommends creation of Alberta Water Authority
Shaping Alberta’s Future
In a report released in May 2011, the Premier’ s Council for Economic Strategy recommended the creation of a new Alberta Water Authority, an independent organization to ensure optimal water management across the province.
Scope of an Alberta Water Authority
The Council envisions that the Alberta Water Authority would report to the Environment Minister, but would have clear and independent governance, sanctioned by statute. It would be funded through a regulated levy on water allocation. It would provide input into policy development, and serve as the single entity with oversight for water management, including:
- Water Information
Attaching a value to water would provide all users the incentive to store, recycle and safeguard it. An Irrigation District, for example, could recoup its investment in water-saving practices by leasing the resulting surplus to a growing municipality. The Authority would encourage the growth of activity that delivers the highest possible benefit to the province for the water used.
Oversight for Water Information
The Alberta Water Authority would be charged with creating and maintaining a fully integrated and accessible water information system to support planning and decision- making.
It would begin by aggregating information currently being collected independently by a variety of sources, identifying gaps and setting priorities for expanding data collection and analysis.
It would be appropriately funded to address over time the full suite of water information technology and processes required to assess current conditions, project future scenarios and evaluate options: surface and groundwater mapping, metering of use and return of post-use treated water to the source, licenses and allocations, determination of how much water must be protected from allocation to preserve groundwater and wetlands.
Oversight for Water Infrastructure
The Water Authority would develop a 25-year infrastructure plan to support effective water management to meet projected demand including for example, on-stream (dams) and off-stream storage facilitie (canals, fully depleted aquifers) to capture water in high-flow seasons to meet demand when flow is low. Building of such infrastructure would be a candidate for investment by the Shaping the Future Fund.
Oversight for Water Allocation
The Alberta Water Authority would oversee an Alberta water allocation exchange. The Authority would maintain information on use and return flow. It would track trades permissible under current policy. It would also advise on policy changes to give holders of water licenses more opportunity to sell, lease or trade some or all of their right to draw water.
Such changes would allow licensees holding water allocations they are not currently using or no longer need to lease or sell this surplus to others within the watershed at a price set by market forces of supply-and-demand. Arrangements could range from short-term leases to cover unusual needs during a drought, to long-term leases, to a permanent transfer that would allow a new water user to buy or lease the senior license benefits conferred on the original owner.
Trading would be governed by strict rules to ensure that environmental and residential requirements are always met first.
About the Report
It includes an important call to all Albertans, outlining broad direction on important themes for Alberta’s future: broadening the economy, realizing the full potential of Alberta’s energy resources, preparing the province and Albertans for a global economy, and investing in the future. The report also provides thoughts on how to ensure the province has a strong platform – fiscally, environmentally and with respect to infrastructure – to sustain economic growth. Under each of the five themes, the council outlines some thought-provoking ‘flagship’ initiatives, which Albertans will need time to study and consider moving forward.
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Posted June 2011