Managing Water for Healthy Rivers and a Healthy Economy


  • Rivers in the Oldman basin are stressed from lack of water.

  • Some rivers are closed to further allocation.

  • 90% of allocated water goes to irrigation

  • There is pressure to use water for other purposes

  • In 2002 the government enabled transfers of water with a 10% return to the river for conservation

  • The St. Mary River Irrigation District applied to have its 1991 water license amended to include “other uses” and this amendment was granted by Alberta Environment.


  • By law, irrigation districts are established to convey and deliver water through irrigation works.

  • The amendment privatizes water by giving the right to decide its use to a board elected by irrigators

  • The decision to amend the 1991 licence avoids transfers, and hence returning some water into dying rivers, contrary to current policy.


  • How and by whom should a scarce public resource such as water be allocated?

  • How do we ensure that there is water for our growing population and changing economy?

  • To what extent is the health of our rivers important?


Cheryl Bradley, Environmental Consultant Ron Renwick, Manager, St. Mary River Irrigation District

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