+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 2-24S

Water Apportionment Performance

April 1, 2024
Expiry Date:
February 28, 2027
Active Status:
MD of Taber
1 - Foothills-Little Bow
Sent to Government
Vote Results:

WHEREAS Schedule A of the 1969 Master Agreement on Apportionment (the Agreement) governs the apportionment of water on the South Saskatchewan River between Alberta and Saskatchewan; and

WHEREAS the Agreement requires that Alberta shall permit a quantity equal to one half of the natural flow of the River to flow into Saskatchewan during each calendar year; and

WHEREAS the Agreement allows Alberta to divert or store or consume a minimum of 2,100,000 acre feet out of the flow of the South Saskatchewan River even though its share for the year is less than that volume, provided that the actual flow of the River at the common boundary of the provinces is not less than 1,500 cubic feet per second at any time; and

WHEREAS Alberta has permitted more than 50% of the natural flow of the South Saskatchewan River to flow to Saskatchewan every year since 1969; and

WHEREAS the rate of flow on the South Saskatchewan River in Alberta is regulated by infrastructure including diversions, dams and reservoirs owned and operated by the Government of Alberta; and

WHEREAS drought conditions prevalent within the South Saskatchewan River basin in 2023 which are likely to persist in 2024 have resulted in water shortages within the basin; and

WHEREAS in times of severe drought it is vital to optimize water retention and storage;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta advocate that the Government of Alberta continue to collaborate with stakeholders to ensure that, to the extent physically practical, Alberta retains its share of the natural flow of the South Saskatchewan River in 2024 and in future years when Alberta is able to divert, store, or consume its full share of the natural flow.

Member Background:

The Master Agreement on Apportionment was made October 30, 1969 between the governments of Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba to govern the apportionment of water between provinces in rivers which flow across provincial boundaries. Simplistically, but with at least one notable exception, it requires that 50% of the natural flow of interprovincial rivers flow from an upstream province to the province downstream each calendar year. Natural flow is the flow calculated to occur if there were no human interference with the flow of rivers such as diversions and storage or release of water.

For apportionment purposes, the flow rate and volume of the South Saskatchewan River is measured at the confluence with the Red Deer River, just east of the provincial boundary. Schedule A of the agreement allows Alberta to consume, divert, or store 2.1 million acre feet of water each year regardless of the flow to Saskatchewan, provided that the flow rate is never less than 1500 cubic feet per second (cfs). This would allow Alberta to take more than 50% of the natural flow if the natural flow volume if less than 4.2 million acre feet, although in even the driest years the volume is usually higher than that. In the past it has typically been assumed that Alberta must pass at least 50% of the natural flow while always maintaining a minimum flow of 1500 cfs, which is incorrect. The minimum flow rate only applies if Alberta wishes to take over 50% of the flow in an extremely low-flow year.

Alberta has always passed at least 50% of the natural flow to Saskatchewan, and most years at least 75% of the natural flow is passed because Alberta takes all the water it needs and there is still a large surplus remaining. However, in extreme drought years Alberta needs more water, but still passes over 50%. Prior to 2023 the two years with the lowest percentage of flow passed were 1988 and 2001, when 58% of the natural flow was passed, and the surplus 8% was equal to over 300,000 acre feet of water each year. Final results are not yet available for 2023, but based on projections late in the year it is expected to be similar to 1988 and 2001.

Flows on the main tributaries of the South Saskatchewan River are regulated and affected by Government of Alberta-owned infrastructure such as the Waterton, St. Mary, Oldman, and Dickson dams and several irrigation diversions, as well as by private infrastructure owned by TransAlta, the Eastern and United irrigation districts, municipalities, and others.

With a more concerted effort to maximize Alberta’s share of the water, particularly at large government-owned reservoirs and diversions, Alberta should be able to retain a greater portion of its share of the water in drought years to reduce the impact of drought.

RMA Background:

5-21S: Preservation of Water Quality and Access to Water by Albertans

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to take proactive measures to ensure that the headwaters that supply Alberta’s water basins are managed to maintain water recharge capabilities, to sustain high water quality and to provide access to sufficient water supplies for all Albertans.

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