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Water Rights Trading

Water Matters seeks to ensure that water rights trading in Alberta adequately considers environmental resources, basic human needs, and drought protection.

Demand for water is increasing across the country, particularly in Alberta with our population growth and commercial and industrial expansion. In regions where access to water is limited fulfilling water needs is a serious and growing concern. Even in basins where the government still issues water licenses, water security has lessened because there is a greater demand for the same water supply. In southern Alberta, however, there is a moratorium on new water licences. In a such “closed basins,” water users have had to look at other options for getting water. 

In 2006, a moratorium on new water licences was put into place for the Bow River, Oldman River and South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) sub-basin. Basins closed to new licences in the SSRB include the Bow River Basin, the Oldman River Basin, and the South Saskatchewan River Basin. The Red Deer Basin is the only sub-basin in the SSRB where the government may issue new water licences.

While closing the basin was a critical step to protect existing water licenses, it also limited the amount of water available. As the demand for more water grows and as licencees approach the limit of their existing licenced allocations, the pressure on existing water supplies grows.

In a recent water rights transfer, the Municipal District of Rocky View paid $15 million dollars to secure water for an entertainment and racetrack development complex near Balzac in 2007.

Alberta Environment announced its intention to address water management challenges including water rights trading as part of a review of their water allocation system.