Alberta Water Act (2000)


The Alberta Water Act governs how the Province of Alberta manages water. The purpose of the act is to promote the conservation and management of water while recognizing the need for economic growth and prosperity and flexible management that works cooperatively with governments of other jurisdictions. The water act governs the diversion, allocation, and use of water and regulates and enforces actions that affect water and water use management, the aquatic environment, fish habitat protection practices, and storm water management. 

The Water Act defines water and water body:


“Water” means all water on or under the surface of the ground, whether in liquid or solid state;

 “Water body” means any location where water flows or is present, whether or not the flow or the presence of water is continuous, intermittent or occurs only during a flood, and includes but is not limited to wetlands and aquifers but does not include except for clause (nn) and section 99 “water body” that is part of an irrigation works if the irrigation works is subject to a licence and the irrigation works is owned by the licensee, unless the regulations specify that the location is included in the definition of water body;


In addition the Water Act:

  • Does not distinguish between wetlands in the White Zone and Green Zone
  • Maintains the priority system of water allocation (FITFIR-First in Time, First in Right)
  • Protects existing water licenses in good standing
  • Licenses are no longer permanent if they are not in good standing. 
  • Protects existing traditional agricultural uses of water through a registration process allowing users to obtain a priority backdated to the date of first use.
  • Recognizes household water use as a statutory right
  • 1250m3/household/year
  • Transfers of allocations are permitted
  • Prohibits export of water to the United States
  • Prohibits inter-basin transfers of water between major river basins
  • Provision for “in-stream” allocations defined by “Water Conservation Objectives
  • Water Management Plans to address regional water issues
  • Sets the requirement for a provincial water management planning framework
  • Provides a wide range of enforcement and water management tools