Water Sources

Estimated “Unused” Water from Licensed Holders

Alberta Environment uses a variety of indicators to estimate water use. The table below provides estimates of water use for the Oldman River and Milk River Basins in the year 2005 .  By estimating the amount of water used, an indication of the water not used by license holders across all sectors can be determined.  Although one must be careful in interpreting these data, it appears that almost one million dam3 were unused in the Oldman River Basin in 2005.  Estimated unused water in the Milk River Basin was significantly less, about 26,000 dam3

 

Allocated, Licensed, Actual Water Use by Basin and Sector1

  

Basin

Sector

Licensed (Dam3)

Actual Use (Dam3)

Estimated Unused Licensed Amount (Dam3)

Percent of Allocation Used

Oldman

Municipal

27,768

16,568

11,200

25.8

 

Stock watering

25,810

19,558

6,252

75.8

 

Irrigation

1,837,350

942,701

894,649

47.8

 

Commercial

10,330

10,330

0

73.3

 

Petroleum

3,530

993

2,537

23.3

 

Industrial

11

11

0

100.0

 

Other

150,821

150,821

0

71.2

 

Total

2,055,620

1,140,982

914,638

49.8

Milk River

Municipal

2,195

2,060

135

81.1

 

Stock watering

10,020

5,051

4,969

50.2

 

Irrigation

43,178

22,1501

21,0281

49.6

 

Commercial

809.17

809.17

0

100.0

 

Petroleum

0

0

0

n/a

 

Industrial

0

0

0

n/a

 

Other

3,744

3,744

0

86.9

 

Total

59,946

33,814

26,132

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: Adapted from AENV, 2007. 

 

Irrigation District Water

Nine of the province’s 13 irrigation districts are located in the Oldman River Basin.  There are no irrigation districts in the Milk River Basin.

Since 2006, four amendments to irrigation water licenses have allowed irrigation districts to use or sell water annually for purposes other than irrigation, including commercial and industrial activities.  These amendments have been made to licenses held by the Taber, Raymond, Lethbridge Northern and St. Mary Irrigation Districts. 

In August, 2007, a request by the Eastern Irrigation District to amend a very senior (1903) license for a significant quantity of water (about 940,800 dam3) was filed. A certain degree of public discontent resulted in Alberta Environment putting the application on hold and declaring its intention not to accept any further amendment requests while an internal review of the suitability of this type of amendment is conducted.  In late 2008, a draft proposal was released that would restrict water sales to quantities of no more than two percent of the volume of a water license and make applications subject to government approval.  Final approval is yet to be made.