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Source Water Protection

Water Matters highlights the importance of upstream land-use management in source water areas to protect downstream drinking water and aquatic ecosystems.

Source water protection takes a preventative and comprehensive approach to water treatment for drinking water. It goes beyond the traditional water treatment option that treats water at the treatment plant. In very simple terms, protecting the ‘source' of drinking water is the next major advancement to assuring safe drinking water. Protecting the source has the added benefit of ensuring healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Landscapes and freshwater resources depend on each other for their long-term protection. For example, forest ecosystems rely on water for their survival; and aquatic ecosystems need healthy, functioning forest ecosystems to supply clean and reliable water supplies. Therefore, how we manage our land use on upstream landscapes plays an important role in the quality and quantity of water that is supplied to downstream users.

In Alberta, forested watersheds supply the majority of water for downstream demand in urban centres. Stronger connections between land management and water management are needed to ensure critical source water is protected. In forested watersheds, a large part of the solution rests with minimizing forest disturbance, adopting best practices when forests are impacted, and reducing cumulative impacts of all the activities occurring in these forests. These changes, in large part, require Albertans to improve their awareness of the connection between upstream land-use decisions and clean drinking water, reliable water quantity, and healthy aquatic ecosystems.

Our Work

Water Matters has developed a program to build awareness of the linkage between forests and our drinking water and to encourage informed government decision making around the cumulative impacts on Alberta's forested watersheds. This program focuses on the Eastern Slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains, the headwaters of much of Alberta's water. The Land Use Framework provides an important opportunity to promote headwaters protection: Learn more about the Land Use Framework at

Eastern Slopes of Alberta

The Eastern Slopes of Alberta's Rocky Mountains covers an area of approximately 90,000 km2 of mainly forest-covered mountains and foothills. Concern for protection of resources—water, timber, and land—n this region is not new. Since the late 1970s the impacts of land-use change and pressure for resource extraction were identified as significant to the environmental quality and management of this region. (Source: Government of Alberta, 1984. A Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes. Edmonton, AB) The upper watersheds of the Eastern Slopes are the source of water for a number of downstream needs including agricultural, municipal, and aquatic ecosystem needs. Protecting watersheds in the Eastern Slopes is especially important for downstream water users. Read more...