Water law and policy: Gaps, opportunities and law reforms (report and webinar)


Water law and policy: Gaps, opportunities and law reforms (report and webinar)

Water law and policy: Gaps, opportunities and law reforms (report and webinar)

 

 

WEBINAR

Join Jason Unger to discuss the report on June 23rd

Webinar June 23, noon – 1:30

Register

Register in advance for this webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_cdOSSjfSQki6pAFTTftlXQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Aquatic Ecosystems – Gaps Opportunities and Law Reforms
Primer on Surface Water Quality Management Framework

The Water Act was proclaimed into force on October 7th, 1998 and it represented a significant evolution in how the province could plan and manage water for environmental purposes.[1] However, in the 23 and half years since its proclamation, the potential of the Act has yet to be realized.

The ELC’s Water law and policy: Gaps, opportunities and law reforms canvasses this unrealized potential of the Water Act and recommends how we may become more proactive in planning and managing water for environmental outcomes.

From a provincial perspective, some core pillars of ensuring environmental flows and ecosystem health identified include:

  1. Legal protection of environmental flows;
  2. Integration of land and water management;
  3. Consideration and conservation of aquatic habitat; and
  4. Adaptable water management that is responsive to water supply issues and evolving climate pressures.

The report highlights challenges and opportunities in each area and how, in many cases, existing legislation enables action.

Specifically, moving forward, planning for water management should be a #1 priority.  This planning should embrace a more detailed and substantive set of matters and factors to make in decision making by government, both for water licences and for water approvals.   This step needs to be further augmented in areas of the province that are over-allocated (i.e. the South Saskatchewan River Basin), by clarifying regulatory and policy approaches to restore environmental flows.

While water management planning in the province is enabled under the Water Act , it has been used sparingly and, when it has been used, the “matters and factors” directing decisions under the Act have been vague and highly discretionary.

Similarly, the provincial Strategy for the Aquatic Environment – which forms part of the Framework for Water Management Planning -could delineate a clear, comprehensive and robust strategy, targets, and actions to be implemented toward proactive planning and action for environmental flows and water quality.  But in its current form, it fails to do so.

A summary of the ELC’s recommendations are set out in Table 1 below.

Table 1:  ELC recommendations for steps in policy and law reform to better serve the aquatic environment

Pillars for environmental flows

Policy and regulatory steps

Law reforms

Legal protection for environmental flows – Water Conservation Objectives

·     Prioritize reaches and basins for Crown reservations orders and WCOs.

·     Ensure WCOs are set at ecologically appropriate levels (i.e., place based at appropriate reach level).

·     Ensure that the meeting of WCOs are tracked and publicly reported.

·     Initiate a strategy and action plan for providing priority protected water in basins where instream flows are at risk (i.e., a triage approach for prioritizing reaches).

Legal Protection for Environmental Flows – Water Management Plans

·     Engage in water management planning in basins with the intention of having approved WMPs in every basin.

·     Ensure “matters and factors” for decision making pursuant to water management plans are sufficiently prescriptive to ensure accountability to aquatic ecosystem planning outcomes.

Environmental Flows  – Deemed licences ·     Review, evaluate and publish policy on exercising discretion for environmental flows pursuant to conditions in “deemed licences” under section 18 of the Water Act.
Integration of land and water

·     Pursue water management planning with a focus on detailed land use matters and factors to be considered in making decisions regarding Water Act approvals.

·     Matters and factors in water management plans should be integrated with assessments of pollutant loading from land use change and development and implementation of loading budgets for surface waters at relevant scales (under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act).

·     Rescale Surface Water Quality Management Frameworks using a triage approach for known impairments and create a system of monitoring and evaluation for the application of frameworks at relevant tributary and/or sub-basin scales.

·     Using regional planning to direct relevant departments and municipalities to integrate surface water quality assessments, land use change and maximum daily load budgets to guide future development and to guide restoration of ecosystems services.

·     Enable and delegate authority to an independent authority to direct planning around water outcomes. This direction would then drive decision making at provincial and municipal levels
Conservation of aquatic habitat ·     Revisit the Strategy for the Protection of Aquatic Environment to detail outcomes, targets, measures, tactics and roles and responsibilities for the protection of aquatic habitat.

·     An aquatic biodiversity management framework should be created with input from relevant experts to ensure aquatic habitat sustainability and resilience

·     The Government of Alberta bring forward habitat protection legislation for aquatic and terrestrial species and ecosystems. This law should include provisions to ensure conservation and restoration of biophysical aspects of aquatic systems
Adapting water management to climate pressures ·     Pursue water management planning and including detailed approaches to the matters and factors around climate variability and future supply in that must be considered in the Director’s decision making. ·     A provincial dialogue regarding water management and allocation in the context of climate change should be undertaken, addressing directly issues of licenced and deemed licence diversion rights, adaptive capacity and accountability for ecosystems needs.
WEBINAR

Join Jason Unger to discuss the report on June 23rd

Webinar June 23, noon – 1:30

Register

Register in advance for this webinar: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_cdOSSjfSQki6pAFTTftlXQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Aquatic Ecosystems – Gaps Opportunities and Law Reforms
Primer on Surface Water Quality Management Framework

[1] Alberta Gazette, Part 1, October 31, 1998, Vol. 94, No. 20 at p. 2004, online Alberta Queen’s Printer https://www.qp.alberta.ca/documents/gazette/1998/pdf/1031_i.pdf 

 


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