Availability of Water in SouthGrow

There is capacity for additional water use in southern Alberta.  A water licensee is given an annual allocation, which is the maximum amount of water the user is allowed to divert each year.  Many licensees do not use all the water their license entitles them to, thus actual use is usually less than licensed use.

1. Licensed Municipal Capacity      

Table 1 in the ‘Water for Economic Development in the SouthGrow Region of Alberta’ Final Report by Lorraine Nicol, Henning Bjornlund and K.K. Klein, Department of Economics, University of Lethbridge, February 2009, provides a summary of licenses and registrations and allocated, licensed and estimated actual use in the Oldman River Basin by sector.  In total, existing license and registrations allow a maximum of 2,292,401 dam3 of water to be withdrawn for use and distributed among almost 11,000 licenses and registrations.

Table 1

Oldman River Basin - Selected Water Data

Sector

Licenses and Registrations

Allocated

(Dam 3)

Licensed

(Dam3)

Estimated Actual Use

(Dam3)

Percent of Allocation Used

Municipal

244

64,149

27,768

16,568

25.8

Stock watering

9,587

25,810

25,810

19,558

75.8

Irrigation

8451

1,972,943

1,837,350

942,701

47.8

Commercial

100

14,094

10,330

10,330

73.3

Petroleum

18

4,270

3,530

993

23.3

Industrial

3

11

11

11

100.0

Other

105

211,124

150,821

150,821

71.2

Total

10,902

2,292,401

2,055,620

1,140,982

49.8

1 Comprising 42 district licenses and 803 private licenses

Source: AENV, 2007 

 

2. Irrigation District Capacity

An overview of water licenses, registrations and estimated actual use is provided in Table 2. (Source: Water for Economic Development in the SouthGrow Region of Alberta’ Final Report by Lorraine Nicol, Henning Bjornlund and K.K. Klein, Department of Economics, University of Lethbridge, dated February 2009).   Existing licenses and registrations allow a maximum of 62,361 dam3 of water to be withdrawn for use.  Of this, up to 59,946 dam3 are expected to be used and 2,415 dam3 returned to surface water.  The largest amounts of water have been allocated to the agriculture sector, particularly irrigation.

Table 2

Milk River Basin  - Selected Water Statistics

Sector

Licenses and Registrations

Allocated

(Dam 3)

Licensed

(Dam3)

Estimated Actual Use

(Dam3)

Percent of Allocation Used

Municipal

15

2,539

2,195

2,060

81.1

Stock watering

2,133

10,062

10,020

5,051

50.2

Irrigation

281

44,641

43,178

22,1501

49.6

Commercial

9

809

809

809

100.0

Petroleum

0

0

0

0

n/a

Industrial

0

0

0

0

n/a

Other

13

4,310

3,744

3,744

86.9

Total

2,451

62,361

59,946

33,814

54.2

1 For the Oldman River Basin, the estimated amount of licensed water used for irrigation is 51.3%.  This figure is applied to the amount of water used for private irrigation in the Milk River Basin as data on actual use is not available.

Source: AENV, 2007

 

3. Bow Basin Water That Enters Saskatchewan

  • Current actual surface water consumed by all sectors in the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB) in Alberta is estimated to be about 1,981,000 dam, which is approximately 40% of the total volume of water (4,987,700 dam) allocated for use. The total allocation of 4,987,700 dam excludes projects that do not impact mainstream flows.  
  • The legal agreement between Alberta and Saskatchewan requires 50% of Bow Basin water to enter Saskatchewan.  In most years the figures are in the range of 80%.  The multi-year drought culminating in 2001 was 50%.  In other words, any figure above 50% represents additional supply capacity. 
  • On average, Alberta has passed 81% of the apportionable flow to Saskatchewan, considerably higher than the 50% required.  This suggests water may be available for additional use in Alberta (Src: SSRB study).