Letters to the editor – April 29, 2021

Oldman basin allocations not watered down

In southern Alberta, years of drought and a dry climate mean that access to water for all of its purposes is front-of-mind for many. Southern Alberta communities are rightfully interested in making sure that they have enough water to meet their needs.

Alberta has a strong system for allocating water that ensures communities, irrigators and industry all have the resources they need to thrive.

In the upper Oldman River basin, which covers the Municipal District of Ranchland, the MD of Pincher Creek and the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, an amount of water is reserved for use by the Oldman River Basin Water Allocation Order. This resource is protected under the Water Act, and we have committed to consultations with the affected communities.

I recognize that there is ongoing confusion about the Oldman water allocation order and claims that the allocation has been changed without input from Albertans. This is simply untrue.

In November 2020, Alberta Environment and Parks held early conversations with municipalities to get input on the proposals to set aside 20 percent of the original unallocated order volume for aquatic environment needs, and replace specific water volume limits for irrigation, industrial and other purposes with one overall limit for all listed users.

These proposals do not increase the water available for water allocation for any specific uses. No increase is being proposed for any specific industries, and that includes coal.

These early conversations with municipalities are about ensuring there is enough water available for the health of Alberta’s fish and other aquatic species — an issue that is not addressed in the current water allocation order.

The Oldman water allocation order remains in place, and the existing sector-based water use limits are unchanged. No changes to existing water licences could be made unilaterally under the Water Act.

The quality and availability of our water is important. Alberta’s high standards and strong process for allocating water remain in place, and water for southern Albertans will continue to be protected for our homes, our businesses and our environment.

Jason Nixon

Alberta environment minister

 

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