Our Region Our Future - Managing Cumulative Environmental Impacts in the Heartland and Capital Region

Managing Water


The quality of the water in the Capital Region is vitally important to all community members. Additionally, the availability and consumption of water—both by residents and industry—is equally concerning for all who live and work in the Capital Region and Industrial Heartland.  In support of the Alberta government’s commitment to cumulative effects management, a multi-stakeholder committee was developed including industry, provincial government, municipalities and representatives from municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities and the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance to develop the Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region. The framework interlinks with other initiatives and components related to the Alberta government’s direction for managing the cumulative effects of human activity, including industrial development, on the environment. The Water Management Framework is a sub-regional plan and will inform the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Water Pressures

What We Do Know

  • Water shortage is not an issue for the North Saskatchewan River based on annual flows.
  • Overall quality of the North Saskatchewan River is good, and has improved over the last 50 years.
  • Although the river’s water quality is good, management for growth is required to address contaminants of concern that are approaching or exceeding provincial and federal guidelines (e.g., nutrients and a few trace metals) that need to be managed for growth.
  • The North Saskatchewan River has the capacity to handle current water demands for all users.
  • Total allocation of water to all users (e.g., industry, municipalities) for the entire river basin is 28% of the river’s annual average flow. Of this, only 4% is consumed and not returned to the river.
  • The load reductions required for specific parameters to achieve the framework’s objectives have been determined. Data shows that the majority of the loading in the Edmonton Metro reach stems from industry and municipal discharges.

What’s Next

  • Additional monitoring may be required to refine modeling and engineering work underway.
  • Determining the feasibility of load reduction requirements regards to investments by municipalities and industries to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • Enhance understanding and quantify the impact of non-point source loading (e.g., runoff from agriculture and livestock).
  • Determine the economic viability of using reclaimed water from waste water treatment plants for the region.
  • Define the long term target for load reduction.

Water Management Framework

The Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region, which was completed in 2007, is an example of the first application of the Alberta government’s cumulative effects management approach. The multi-stakeholder committee who were tasked with its development provided recommendations on an integrated regional solution to develop a world-class integrated water management system  addressing water quantity and quality issues for the North Saskatchewan River.

The framework consists of a phased approach for implementation: Phase 1 (2007-2009) for short-term priority issues to be met, Phase 2 (2009 – 2012) creates a foundation for long-term sustainability with a governance structure in place, and Phase 3 (2012 – 2041) ensuring sustainability through the execution of a framework implementation plan. In addition to this, the framework outlines the steps for achieving the North Saskatchewan River water management targets (including improving the water quality of the river and managing water quantity) and addressing growth and collective development by assuring an economically viable and secure supply. Currently, the framework is evaluating options for an integrated regional water supply and wastewater treatment model for the Capital Region and Industrial Heartland with an emphasis on recycled water usage. In addition, a Groundwater Framework for the Capital Region and Industrial Heartland was developed and being reviewed by multi-stakeholder groups.

Through this framework, the existing governing system of our water source will be enhanced and investments will be made at the right time for ensuring our water quantity and quality continues to meet urban and industrial requirements while sustaining environmental health.

How am I Affected?

Our aim is to have continued good quality water for personal use, as well as water for recreational purposes and industrial activity.  More information will be made available to Albertans as it is reasonable to assume that additional monitoring of water quality and flow will be required in this region given the provincial and federal focus on water monitoring. The use of reclaimed water may increase, if it is deemed a viable option, therefore reducing the draw of specific operators from the river.

Glossary of Terms

Strathcona County City of Edmonton City of Fort Saskatchewan Lamont County Government of Alberta Environment NCIA - Northeast Capital Industry North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance Strathcona Industrial Association Alberta's Industrial Heartland