Water for Life

The Government of Alberta recognizes that our quality of life, and life itself, depends on having a healthy and sustainable water supply for the environment, for our communities and for our economic well-being and is committed to the wise management of Alberta's water quantity and quality for the benefit of Albertans now and in the future.

In the past, Alberta has been able to manage its water supply while maintaining a healthy aquatic environment, because there has been a relatively abundant and clean supply of water to meet the needs of communities and the economy; however, fluctuating and unpredictable water supplies in recent years has stressed the need to make some major shifts in our approach to manage this renewable, but finite, resource. Water for Life: Alberta's Strategy for Sustainability is the Government of Alberta's response to develop a new water management approach and outline specific strategies and actions to address these issues. The strategy was released in November 2003.

Throughout an extensive consultation process, Albertans reaffirmed three goals of a provincial water strategy:

  • Safe, secure drinking water supply;
  • Healthy aquatic ecosystems; and
  • Reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy.

Two of these goals have direct implications for wetlands in Alberta, since wetlands are instrumental in providing a source of clean water and assist in the maintenance of healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Healthy Aquatic Ecosystems

The healthy aquatic ecosystem component of the Water for Life strategy seeks to ensure that Alberta's aquatic ecosystems are sustained for future generations. When reviewing the implementation of Water for Life, the Alberta Water Council noted the complexity and challenges of assessing and managing aquatic ecosystem health under the healthy aquatic ecosystem element and suggested that increased awareness and resources would help advance the goal.

What are healthy aquatic ecosystems? A Water for Life report in 2005 defined them as "a healthy ecosystem is sustainable and resilient to stress, maintaining its ecological structure and function over time similar to the natural (undisturbed) ecosystems of the region, with the ability to recover from disturbance, while continuing to meet social needs and expectations".

Currently, the Alberta Water Council has established a project team to craft a working definition that can be used province-wide to improve our understanding of aquatic ecosystems and their health. The project team also intends to identify potential healthy aquatic ecosystems projects of provincial importance.

Water for Life Initiatives

The current focus of healthy aquatic ecosystems work falls under four main initiatives that link the strategic actions to the outcomes. These themes focus on aquatic ecosystem health to enhance provincial aquatic knowledge and watershed management opportunities.

Assessment of aquatic ecosystem health - This initiative continues the development of the initial assessment of aquatic ecosystem health in Alberta. Its focus is on provincial fish information, enhanced assessment of water quality and biological data, wetlands and a synthesis of riparian health inventory information.

Science-based knowledge of aquatic ecosystems - This initiative supports the improvement of our aquatic environment by addressing gaps in knowledge. Efforts include; refining water quality models, instream flow needs tools and fish community index development.

Watershed management and decision support tools - The main goal is to ensure that current knowledge and management tools developed for aquatic ecosystems are accessible and understood. These efforts will support integrated land and water regional management processes.

Education and public awareness - This initiative is developing public education and information materials to inform Albertans about facts on water and healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Water for Life Renewal

In November 2008, the Government of Alberta released Water for Life - A Renewal after reviewing the Alberta Water Council's recommendations and the achievements of the past five years. As in the original strategy document, the renewed strategy is based on the same three goals. Each of those goals will be achieved through knowledge and research, partnerships and water conservation.