Managing our water for the future

Photo of hydrologist measuring snowpack

Measuring water content in mountain snowpack.

Alberta’s majestic mountains are not only a source of pride for Albertans, but a major water source.  Most of the province’s rivers originate from glaciers and high elevation snowpacks in the Rocky Mountains.

As mountain snowpack melts, the runoff feeds into our rivers and streams.  This means that the amount of water available in a river basin varies throughout the year.

At the same time, water demands also vary seasonally and from year to year.  

During growing season and the summer months, municipalities will typically require more water from rivers to meet residents’ needs, and agricultural producers will require more water for irrigation of crops.  These water demands can be more pronounced in years when there is less snow and rain.

Much of the water that originates in the Rockies works its way north and east to other parts of the country.  Trans-boundary agreements are used to help guide the management of this shared resource.

Given the range of water needs and these natural variations, Alberta has developed water management systems, including infrastructure like reservoirs and canals, to best connect water supply in a river basin with water demands for communities, agriculture, industry and the environment.   

This approach has served Albertans well over the past few decades.  But the world continues to evolve and the pace of development continues.  We need to ensure our water management system remains effective and efficient in light of these changes.

Fortunately, we are in a good position to tackle these challenges: we have a solid water management foundation to build from; we are not facing a water crisis today; and we have room to improve our current system through system optimization. 

Optimization involves looking at an entire system to determine the best way to manage water supply, water storage, water use and water returns in any given season or year.  Using water optimization, we can better align water supply and demand throughout the year, so that our total water supplies can meet our total demands into the future.

Cover of the Water Conversation guideWe’d like to hear your thoughts on the potential for water optimization in Alberta’s rivers.

You can learn more about the challenges and path forward on our website and by reading the water management section in the conversation guide.

Join the conversation by:

Thanks – we look forward to hearing from you!

In this video, Andy Ridge, Director of Water Policy, explains water management in Alberta.

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