The Drought Command Team in Alberta has been approved to commence negotiations with water license holders, aiming to establish water-sharing agreements as a proactive measure to alleviate the potential impacts of a drought.

The objective is to reach agreements within the Red Deer River, Bow River, and Old Man River basins. In the event of a severe drought, these agreements would involve significant users reducing their water consumption to support downstream needs.

Alberta depends on the melting snow and rainfall for its entire water supply. This winter, the snowpack is below average, rivers are at historically low levels, and several reservoirs continue to lag well below their capacity.

"Drought is something our farmers and ranchers have experienced before. Based on that experience, our irrigators and agricultural producers have done an amazing job to manage their operations during tough times. I also want to be clear, that Alberta producers are leaders in water conservation, environmental stewardship, and I am proud of the work they do. As always, Alberta’s government is doing everything we can to help producers impacted by drought, and our producers have always stepped up to work together to build solutions that are in the interest of the entire province," stated RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation.

In Alberta, there are 25,000 organizations and businesses possessing licenses for a total of 9.5 billion cubic meters of water. The Drought Command Team aims to identify and prioritize negotiations with the largest water license holders in Alberta, seeking substantial and prompt reductions in water usage.

“Starting February 1, the Drought Command Team will begin negotiations with major water licence holders throughout Alberta to secure significant and timely reductions in water use. This effort will be the largest water-sharing negotiation to have ever occurred in Alberta’s history. I want to thank licence holders for coming to the table – your generosity, ingenuity and participation in this effort reflects the very best of our province,” stated Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas. 

In addressing past water shortages, individuals and groups collaborated to share the available water. Nevertheless, the current collaborative efforts and proposals underway represent an unprecedented scope and scale in Alberta's history.

Locally, The City of Airdrie had imposed water restrictions for several months in 2023 from mid-August until the end of October.

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