The South Saskatchewan River Basin is comprised of four major sub-basins: Red Deer, Bow, Oldman, and the South Saskatchewan. All of the basins begin in the Rocky Mountains and generally flow eastward through the foothills and the prairies. The combined watershed of the basins is 121,095 km2, of which 41% is the Red Deer sub-basin, 22% is the Oldman, 21% is the Bow, and 16% is the South Saskatchewan.
The Red Deer sub-basin begins in the north of Banff National Park and flows east to join the South Saskatchewan River near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. The South Saskatchewan forms part of the Nelson River system, which eventually drains into Hudson Bay.
- Water allocations are distributed among a variety of major sectors. This diversity means water is in demand for a number of competing interests including agriculture, municipal development, and petroleum sectors.
- Allocation for other uses represent 30% or 11,837 dam3 of all allocations in the Red Deer. These allocations consist almost entirely of surface water (97 % or 111,635.5 dam3 ). Water allocations to the other uses are primarily for water management (flood control and lake stabilization), fish, wildlife and habitat enhancement, and uses specified by a director with Alberta Environment.
- As the only sub-basin that is open to new surface water licences in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, the Red Deer River is under pressure to demand from the south as well as from the dry Battle River watershed to the northeast.