The Alberta government has unveiled its 2024 Drought Response Plan to assist Albertans in navigating any drought conditions that may arise this year.

This comprehensive plan encompasses conservation strategies, water-sharing agreements, emergency declarations, and prioritizing water for human health and safety. It aims to ensure that Albertans, communities, farmers, ranchers, and businesses receive the necessary support, regardless of weather conditions.

“This spring has brought much-needed moisture to many areas of the province, and new forecasts showing increased precipitation are a cause for optimism. However, we must remain prepared for drought now and into the future," stated Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas. "Alberta’s Drought Response Plan is foundational to that work and will help our province respond to all levels of drought for years to come.”

The Drought Response Plan is designed to facilitate swift and efficient responses from government bodies, irrigators, communities, businesses, and other stakeholders to diverse drought scenarios. Here is what the plan outlines:

  1. The five stages of Alberta's drought response.
  2. Partner roles and responsibilities, emphasizing collaboration and communication.
  3. Regulatory and non-regulatory strategies and tools applicable to different drought conditions.
  4. Protocols for declaring emergencies, with a clear understanding that this measure is a last-resort option.

To see the full plan, click HERE.

According to the government of Alberta, we are at stage four. The government is currently collaborating with large water users to make use of all available regulatory and non-regulatory measures. In addition to other actions being taken throughout southern Alberta, this entails developing plans for responding to water shortages, expediting the issuance of temporary diversion licenses, which will permit water to be temporarily diverted from new sources, and the historic water-sharing agreements that were announced on April 19.

If Alberta were to reach stage five, the province would declare an emergency under the Water Act as a last resort. Should the government declare an emergency, Albertans should be advised that:

  • Emergency declarations are temporary and allow the government to prioritize water use.
  • Emergency declarations do not replace the regulatory requirements of the Water Act.
  • Emergency declarations only apply to a specific location. This could range from a small geographical area within a sub-basin to the entire South Saskatchewan River basin or province, depending on the severity of a drought.

Here are three triggers according to the province that would need to happen for the province to consider declaring an emergency:

  • If there is not sufficient water available for the priority uses. Human health and safety is the top priority, followed closely by ensuring sufficient water supplies for critical infrastructure, livestock welfare and critical environmental needs.
  • If there is increasing distress from local authorities, or if local authorities are unable to respond to issues caused by drought. For example, if a state of local emergency is declared or if the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre is activated at level 3 or higher.
  • If Alberta’s water management system becomes so overwhelmed that staff cannot process or implement regulatory measures promptly, impeding the drought response.

Alberta has never before declared an emergency under the Water Act. There are currently 51 water shortage advisories in place for select water management areas across Alberta.

A few weeks ago the City of Airdrie revised its Waterworks Bylaw to, 'represent a proactive step towards improving water management practices, promoting regional collaboration and enhancing community resilience.'

With the recent snow and rain, the fire advisory for West RVC has been lifted, but East RVC remains under the advisory. Mountain View Couty has lifted its fire restriction while Airdrie still remains without any bans, restrictions or advisories.

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