Alarm bells continue to be sounded by the province as it said that this year's winter snowpack is well below average, with many rivers at record low levels and multiple reservoirs remaining well below capacity.

"El Niño is producing a warm and dry winter across Western Canada and more than 70 per cent of the country is experiencing drought conditions. Alberta is at risk of a severe drought in parts of the province this year."

Across Alberta, there are 51 water shortage advisories, including Nose Creek, which has a low flow advisory. Data from the Alberta River Basin map indicates the low flow advisory will remain in effect for the winter.

As part of the province's preparedness for the possible drought, it has announced a six-person Water Advisory Committee. The committee includes leaders with experience in agriculture, irrigation, Indigenous, industry, rural and urban issues.

"It will act as an independent sounding board to help the government support communities, farmers and ranchers, and businesses share, conserve and manage water during a potential drought. The committee will give advice directly to Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Protected Areas," a province release stated.

The Water Advisory Committee will include:

  • Justin Wright, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat
  • Paul McLauchlin, reeve of Ponoka County and president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta
  • Ian Anderson, former CEO of Trans Mountain
  • Alex Ostrop, chair of the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association
  • Jack Royal, CEO of the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council
  • Tanya Thorn, mayor of Okotoks and director, Towns South on the board of Alberta Municipalities

In the coming months, the Water Advisory Committee will meet regularly to discuss and debate ideas on how best to prepare for and respond to drought, give feedback on work already underway and suggest new ways to help manage water as fairly and efficiently as possible. The members will also help identify long-term solutions to benefit future generations. Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas said that the committee will provide her with both ideas and perspectives from leaders across the province.

"They’ll share what they are hearing and seeing and help identify new or better ways to support families, farms, ranches and businesses if we face a severe drought this year.”

RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation underlined that drought and water shortages are a deep concern for the province's irrigators and agricultural producers.

"The work of this committee will be essential to maximizing and finding efficiencies that will ensure as much water as possible is conserved to produce the food that feeds our families, both here and abroad."

Along with the advisory committee, Alberta’s government will continue working with municipalities, water users, farmers, industry, First Nations and others to help prepare for the risk of severe drought this year.

Earlier this month, the province announced that for the first time in over two decades, the government authorized the Drought Command Team to begin negotiations with major water licence holders to strike water-sharing agreements in the Red Deer River, Bow River and Old Man River basins.

"If a severe drought occurs, these agreements would see major users use less water to help others downstream."

In Alberta, there are 25,000 organizations and businesses that hold licences for 9.5 billion cubic metres of water. The Drought Command Team will select and prioritize negotiations with Alberta’s largest water licence holders to secure significant and timely reductions in water use.

To help manage water during previous shortages, individuals and groups have worked together to share available water. However, the scope and scale of the collaborative work underway and being proposed is unprecedented in Alberta’s history.

Several months ago, The City of Airdrie issued a water advisory in August. That water advisory lasted until the end of October 2023.

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