Institutional Relationships and Alberta's Water for Life Strategy
by J. Owen Saunders, 2010.
31 pp. Occasional Paper #32. $15.00 (softcover)
When it was introduced by the provincial government in November 2003, the Water for Life strategy represented a potentially bold attempt to mark Alberta as the Canadian leader in modern approaches to water management. Indeed, at the time, the government described the strategy as the "most comprehensive of its kind in Canada." The strategy came against the backdrop of increasing stresses on the province's water resources and a recently-completed overhaul of the cornerstone of water management legislation with the introduction in 1996 of a new Water Act. The Act has been the subject of extensive comment elsewhere, but, in summary, it attempted to both preserve the essential core of the province's existing water management regime - which was built on the twin principles of prior allocation and "first-in-time, first-in-right" - and to incorporate modern concepts and tools of water management, as reflected in the foundational concept of ecosystem integrity and protection.
The paper begins with an overview of the Water for Life strategy, as reflected both in its original version and in subsequent refinements in later years. It then describes briefly the institutional context for water management in Alberta, focusing on the provincial agencies that have the primary ongoing responsibilities for water management in the province. The paper then turns to the description of some key planning initiatives undertaken by the province that are relevant to Water for Life, including both broader land-use planning exercises and planning efforts directed at water management more narrowly, together with a discussion of the interrelationship between these exercises and the Water for Life strategy. The final section provides some brief conclusions.