Approval Process

The permanent transfer of a water license is permissible under an approved basin water management plan.

Until a water management plan is developed and approved for the Milk River Basin, water right transfers are not permitted there.

Transfers within the Oldman River Basin are permitted under the South Saskatchewan River Basin Water Management Plan (Phase One- Water Allocation Transfers). This document can be accessed at: www.gov.ab.ca/env/water/regions/ssrb/PDF_documents/SSRB_Phase_One_Plan.pdf

Transfer application and approval procedures are outlined in the Administrative Guideline for Transferring Water Allocations, accessible at: www.gov.ab.ca/env/water/legislation/Guidelines/Transfer_Guidelines.pdf.

The approval process is divided into three stages. Stage One involves the preparation of an application form and the preparation and submission of required documents.  These include:

  1. Submission of the “Application under the Water Act for Transfer of an Allocation of Water Under a License” accessed at: www.environment.gov.ab.ca/info/library.5831.pdf.   This form requires information on the name and address of the buyer and seller, quantity of water to be transferred, whether the transfer is permanent or temporary, the point of diversion, water source, quantity to be transferred, new rate of diversion and purpose of use, whether the license is in good standing and whether the transfer has been authorized by an approved water management plan.
  2. A recent certificate of title for all parcels of land involved in the transfer.
  3. Written consent from the landowner if the transferee is not the owner of the new land.
  4. Written consent from the landowner if the existing license is in a different name.
  5. A copy of the license from which the transfer is being made.
  6. A plan showing the layout of the new works, including: point of diversion, point of use, description of the works and water requirement, and an irrigation feasibility report if irrigation water use is involved.

Stage Two includes a public review process, which can vary depending on the transfer. The administrative guidelines state: “(t)he Director determines the form and manner of review with consideration of the scope of impacts and issues within the proposed transfer” (AENV, 2003b, p. 8).  At a minimum, this process requires the parties to place a notice in the local and in some cases, regional newspaper(s).  This may be sufficient for less extensive transfers.   The guidelines state: “an open house may not be required … (for) small projects involving moving a short distance on the same stream without a change in ownership or purpose or diversion timing” Where the scope of impact and issues are deemed more extensive, the Director may require an open house to be held where discussions about the impact of the water license transfer can take place.  The costs of stage one and two are the responsibility of the buyer and seller.

In Stage Three, Alberta Environment’s assessment and review, is usually carried out at the same time as the public review and public notice process and is paid for by the provincial government. 

Materials submitted to Alberta Environment to support a water license transfer are considered in the public domain and can be viewed by the public. If the license is in good standing and is within an area managed under an approved water management plan, the application will be reviewed by Alberta Environment.  If the license transfer is approved, the buyer is subject to a one-time license fee that is based on transfer volumes. The license retains the priority date originally assigned to it.  Decisions made on transfer applications can be appealed before the Environmental Appeal Board.

Note, transfers of all or a portion of an irrigation district license are possible, but only if a plebiscite is held and a majority of irrigators agree.  If agreement is obtained, then the license transfer must be agreed to by Alberta Environment involving steps as outlined above.