Update: Irrigation District allowed to sell its water

Update: Irrigation District allowed to sell its water

Update: Irrigation District allowed to sell its water


As of November 18, 2010, Alberta environment has approved the Eastern Irrigation District’s application to change the purpose of its water licence from irrigation only to a variety of purposes.   The purposes added include municipal, agricultural, commercial, industrial, habitat “enhancement”, and recreation in specified amounts.

This amendment is a step towards legalizing ongoing transfers of approximately 2800 acre feet of water by the EID to other users under Irrigation Districts Act conveyance agreements.   In April, the ELC argued these are not allowed under the conditions of the EID’s Water Act licence.

There were also no amendments to other provisions of this licence restricting use to certain times of the year and to use water on irrigation lands only.  There was no application to transfer water to other users under the Water Act.

This means that some of these ongoing transfers to other users may still not be allowed under the Water Act or the water licence even with the amendment.

As the Auditor General noted in April of this year, Alberta Environment should enforce the Water Act against licence holders who use, transfer, or sell water in violation of the conditions of their water licence.

See our previous blog from April on this topic.




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Photo: Eastern Irrigation District on Facebook

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  • Len Ring
    Posted at 05:50h, 16 May Reply


    There are probably issues we cannot agree on (and that is fine) but is it your position that if someone in an ID’s service area requires water for basic human and livestock needs i.e 1-2-3 acre feet for his rural residence, a couple of horses and a few chickens, he and the ID should appy to Alberta Environment for a transfer under the Water Act? And that this needs to happen for each and every rural residence in the ID? Surely we want these people to be served with a reliable souce of water for basic human and livestock needs in a simple and effective manner.

    You suggest without a water licence amendment the ID’s water would otherwise be “unused”, not “hoarded for irrigation purposes”. I would submit that the same, curently unused, water would be used to irrigate more acres (as allowed for in legislation) and therefore would definitely be used for irrigation purposes.

    You suggest the amendment was effected without either the process or the protections of applicable legislation. I assume you mean all 11 amendments. All these amendments were made very much in accordance with the Water Act. They also comply completely with the wording and intent of Irrigation Districts Act, particularly the 2002 amendments to the Act and regulations, which received widespread support in the legislature both by the government members and the loyal oppositiion.

  • Len Ring
    Posted at 05:30h, 16 May Reply

    There have been 11 amendments of this type to ID licences, but 2 of those were to the same ID, so in my posting I should have said:

    “In fact 10 of Alberta’s 13 irrigation disticts have had similar amendments made to their water licences.”

    An 11th ID has applied for a similar amendment, but that application is stil in the process of being reviewed.

    I apologize for that error.

  • lauracbowman
    Posted at 08:17h, 13 May Reply

    Dear Len,

    The Irrigation Districts practice of re-allocating water to third parties without a valid Water Act transfer is not in our opinion in accordance with the Irrigation Districts Act or the Water Act and these issues have not previously been adjudicated by the EAB.

    The EID’s water would otherwise be unused, not “hoarded for irrigation purposes”. This re-allocation will result in more water being used. It was effected without either the process or the protections of applicable legislation.

  • Len Ring
    Posted at 22:16h, 12 May Reply

    Just a couple of points of clarification.

    1) Your articles make it sound like this is a new (or a first) occurance. In fact 11 of Alberta’s 13 irrigation disticts have had similar amendments made to their water licences. Only 2 of those amendments were made after the EID’s. The first such amendment was made in 2002 and that decision was also appealed to the EAB. The result of the appeal was that the amendment was valid. Other ID water licence amendments occurred in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011. This has been an ongoing process.

    2) Rather than being critical of the EID (and other IDs), they should be thanked for being willing to share the water they have legally been allocated for such things as “municipal, agricultural, commercial, industrial, habitat enhancement, and recreational purposes”. This is certainly preferable to hoarding it for only irrigation puposes.

  • Updates « Environmental Law Centre (Alberta)
    Posted at 13:37h, 18 January Reply

    […] Eastern Irrigation District approval for change of purpose is under appeal to the Environmental Appeals […]

  • John Clark
    Posted at 19:09h, 29 November Reply

    The Conservatives have loaded up their “Friends” with water allotments in quantities far greater than what they could use.

    Some are cities while others are municipalities and oil companies with a mix of “no names” involved.

    Like electricity water will be paid for and profited by a few and, provincial funding will with withdrawn and the people with the water allotments are told to charge more if they want more cash.

    It is to be noted the Liberal position is to pull all the water allotment back into the provincial domain thus bringing an end to turning water into a commodity!

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