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Learning from Balzac: Report highlights need for new policy on intra-basin water diversions

Improved policy to address diversions between sub-basins would help avoid negative impacts on the environment and communities.

Two years after a water controversy erupted over a proposal to pipe water from the Red Deer to the Bow River sub-basin for a mega-entertainment complex in Balzac, the province has yet to develop specific policy for dealing with similar types of water diversions.

A new report by Water Matters, Piping Water Between Watersheds, recommends the Alberta government modify current policy to specifically deal with diversions between watersheds within Alberta's river basins.

"New realities around water availability in southern Alberta suggest we need to consider the negative impacts of sub-basin water diversions such as the one that was proposed in Balzac," said Meghan Beveridge, a policy associate with Water Matters. "Alberta should consider a policy that discourages these types of diversions. We must encourage communities and business to conserve water and live within the means of the watershed."

The report's recommendations include:

  • Discourage sub-basin water diversions unless absolutely necessary to provide drinking water to a community.
  • Establish a more appropriate geographic scale for management of water diversions.
  • Consider and address all potential negative ecological, socio-economic, and cumulative impacts of both basin-to-basin and sub-basin-to-sub-basin diversion proposals.
  • Make the information about these types of diversions publicly accessible.
  • Make 'purpose of use' a key consideration.

"As population and economic growth and dwindling water due to climate change drive up water scarcity in southern Alberta, the potential is on the rise for more proposals like the one proposed for the Balzac entertainment complex," said Beveridge. "A new approach is needed to keep pace with southern Alberta's growing water challenges."

Read the backgrounder

Download the full report

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