Water – Operational Preparedness
Alberta is experiencing extremely low water levels due to below-average snowpack and precipitation over the past several months, resulting in less runoff to rivers, lakes and reservoirs. This is contributing to widespread dry conditions and water shortages, especially in southern Alberta. With a high probability of a strong El Niño event this winter (resulting in lower precipitation and higher temperatures), there is a strong likelihood of low flows and low water levels persisting into the 2024 calendar year.
Whether this drought will become a multiyear event is uncertain and, as a result, industry operational preparedness is vital. Industry should be aware of active water shortage advisories and plan accordingly when applying for a temporary water licence under the Water Act. Existing industry licensees must be diligent about adhering to the conditions in their water licences to avoid exceeding their withdrawal limits.
The AER is working closely with the Government of Alberta in evaluating and monitoring the situation through a network of province-wide water level and snowpack measuring stations. Mitigation measures may vary depending on location and how much snow and rain the province receives. The AER will work with partners and industry water users to help manage the situation. The industry should be proactive and plan for water shortages during 2024, including conserving water in their operations now.
For the South Saskatchewan River Basin, where the situation is more severe, the AER will reach out to industry licence holders this winter to seek estimates of their 2024 future water demand. Licensees at risk of being unable to divert water in 2024 should prepare contingency plans.