WHEREAS the renewed Water for Life strategy provides that the Government of Alberta will manage Alberta’s water resources using management principles which include the following:
“Citizens, communities, industry and government must share responsibility for water management in Alberta and work together to improve conditions within their local watershed”; and
WHEREAS municipalities and land owners, and particularly agricultural operations, are bearing an excessive and unequal portion of the responsibilities and costs for protecting Alberta’s watersheds through the protection of riparian areas; and
WHEREAS land owners, and particularly agricultural operations, are experiencing loss of use and loss of income from riparian areas on their lands that are now protected, or are to be protected.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to provide measures that grant all consumers of surface potable water the opportunity to fairly compensate municipalities for water management costs, and land owners and agricultural operations for the loss of use and the loss of income, due to riparian lands being protected to improve the condition of local watersheds.
The Alberta Water Council recommended to the Government of Alberta to renew the Water for Life strategy around two key themes:
(a) “Safeguarding our water sources, including addressing aquatic ecosystem degradation, more fully integrating water and land management, and continuing to create, enhance and use innovative tools and best practices”; and
(b) “Accelerating our actions to protect our water sources now rather than waiting until later. This includes clarifying roles and accountabilities, improving data collection and analysis, and increasing public awareness about water and water resources to build a shared commitment with Albertans”.
Additionally the Water for Life – Action Plan set as Key Action 1.7 the following:
Update water quality programs to support source protection information and planning
• Work with Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils to incorporate drinking water source protection into watershed planning
Future amendments to the Right to Farm legislation need to include provision to ensure that Agricultural Producers are adequately compensated for the loss of use and loss of income on lands protected for riparian purposes.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Environment is aware that policy is required for riparian lands. We recognize that municipalities and land owners will be affected by any riparian policy, and we will take the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties’ resolution on compensation into account during policy development.
Agriculture and Rural Development:
This resolution urges the Government of Alberta to provide measures that grant all surface water consumers the opportunity to fairly compensate municipalities, land owners and agricultural operators for the water management costs associated with the loss of use and the loss of income due to riparian lands being protected to improve the condition of local watersheds. It should be noted that municipalities and land owners own only a portion of these lands referred to as riparian lands, as some of the lands would be owned by the Crown.
Alberta’s agriculture producers have generally been good stewards of the land, and have provided many benefits to society for which they have not been compensated. Land owners and agricultural operators are expected to practice good management that prevents degradation of the natural resources. In some cases, there is explicit legislation to ensure resource degradation does not occur (Soil Conservation Act, Agriculture Operations Practices Act).
Alberta is working towards using more market based approaches to compensate for ecological goods and services derived from both farming operations and non-farm land management. Historically, programs such as Permanent Cover Program and Bucks for Wildlife have made payments for ecosystem enhancement. The Institute for Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment has recently recommended a framework for an ecosystem services market to bring green market opportunities to land owners.
The Government of Alberta will continue working towards more market based opportunities for land owners to provide ecosystem services and meet the expected outcomes of regional land use plans.
In response to this resolution, the Government of Alberta has committed to considering the intent of this resolution during policy development, and is already moving towards a more market-based system to compensate for ecological goods and services. The AAMDC will monitor the progress and effects of these intended changes. In addition, the AAMDC has representation on the Alberta Water Council’s (AWC) Riparian Project Team that is tasked with providing recommendations for effective conservation and management of riparian lands in support of Water for Life goals. The project team is in the process of preparing their final report which will be presented to the Alberta Water Council in October 2013.