+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 7-11S

Natural Resources Conservation Board Approval Process

January 1, 2011
Expiry Date:
March 31, 2014
Active Status:
Vulcan County
1 - Foothills-Little Bow
Planning and Development
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:

WHEREAS in recent meetings with the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) and Alberta Environment to discuss confined feeding operations (CFO) applications, concerns have arisen over matters such as the availability of water supply;

WHEREAS confined feeding operation developments are being approved before many other critical approvals such as water licenses and access;

WHEREAS the NRCB currently gives the proposed confined feeding operations the option of proving a water source before the development is approved or they can wait until after the development is approved;

WHEREAS all other municipal developments need to ensure that there is sufficient water before applying for a development;

WHEREAS it may be correct that other government agencies approve aspects of a confined feeding operation, it is the NRCB and Alberta Environment’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements of a development are in place before granting an approval;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Province of Alberta to review its approval process for confined feeding operation developments and ensure all limiting factors such as water are taken into consideration before the development is approved.

Member Background:

Recently the NRCB approved for development a confined feeding operation within our county before the applicant had to prove that there was sufficient water for this operation. The municipality advised the operator that water is in short supply and it was recommended to either reconsider the location of this site or make alternate arrangements to pipe water into this site. The confined feeding operation has now been constructed and they have now discovered that there is not enough water to operate.  This operation is currently running at a limited capacity with water being trucked in. To date the developer has been unsuccessful in negotiating easement agreements with adjacent land owners for an underground water line.

RMA Background:

Resolution 6-08S (set to expire): THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the provincial government to direct the NRCB to review and decide upon applications for confined feeding operations from a complete, holistic perspective, and not fragment the decision making process amongst multiple government agencies.

Government Response:


The Government of Alberta remains committed to ensuring Alberta’s resources are managed wisely, now and in the future.  We continue to review our processes to ensure they are meeting the needs of Albertans and remain true to our objectives.

In the past, the Natural Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Environment employed a coordinated approval process.  This means the applicant was required to apply for both approval permits simultaneously.  This process was criticized because of the delays and confusion it caused for applicants. 

The two approval processes were then separated and individuals were given the option to choose between a joint or a separate approval process for an Alberta Environment Water Act licence and a Natural Resources Conservation Board Agricultural Operation Practices Act permit.

Alberta Environment recognizes that there is a larger issue with the separation of the two processes, and understands that some proponents have proceeded to build confined feeding operations without knowledge of water availability.  This is a significant challenge as water in the South Saskatchewan River basin is only available through the transfer of existing licence allocations.

Alberta Environment will review the processes provincially, focusing on the southern region, keeping in mind the current flexibility in the system.  The current system has provided effective controls enabling proper screening of the necessary prerequisites, including water availability, before any authorizations are issued.

Sustainable Resource Development:

Between 2002 and 2005, the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) issued approvals under the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA) simultaneously with Alberta Environment’s issuance of water licences under the Water Act.

This practice was discontinued in 2005 in response to industry concerns regarding the length of time required to obtain a water license. In its place, applicants to the NRCB can choose to either link or separate the approval processes under AOPA and the Water Act.

In 2009/10, the NRCB discussed the potential to link AOPA permits with water licensing under the Water Act extensively with Environment and its Policy Advisory Group. The Policy Advisory Group has representation from the confined feeding industry, Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, Agriculture and Rural Development, Environment and selected environmental non-governmental organizations. It was concluded at that time that the current practice of allowing de-linking of AOPA permits and licences under the Water Act should continue.

However, the NRCB understands that some municipalities would like greater certainty that all necessary permits and approvals are in place before construction of a confined feeding operation begins and is prepared to assist in a review process with Alberta Environment.


The Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) presented to the AAMDC Board of Directors in April 2013 and discussed the declaration signed by operators that is now part of the approval process.  The declaration is tied to the NRCB permit application process to delink their AOPA and water license applications. The declarations do not have legal effect but ensure that operators are aware that construction without a water permit is at their own risk. This change in permitting process contradicts the intent of this resolution by delineating limiting factors, such as access to water, prior to approval. As such, the status of this resolution remains Unsatisfactory and the AAMDC will continue to advocate on this issue. 

Provincial Ministries:
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
Provincial Boards and Organizations:
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