08 Mar Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide
Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide
In the latest Environmental Law Centre publication, Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide, we take a look at the law of water in Alberta. In this overarching examination of water law, we cover four main subject areas: the use and ownership of the land under and next to water, the law that governs the use and flow of water, the rules for managing water quality, and, finally, the law governing water in Indigenous communities.
Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide (Full Guide)
Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide – Introduction
Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide – Chapter 1 LAND OWNERSHIP AND USE
Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide – Chapter 2 USE AND FLOW OF WATER
Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide – Chapter 3 WATER QUALITY
Water Law in Alberta: A Comprehensive Guide – Chapter 4 WATER IN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES
In terms of content, the introduction to the Guide provides background information that will be helpful for understanding the rest of the Guide. This includes commentary on how the Guide has been written, as well as a detailed outline of the Guide and each of its constituent chapters. The introduction also provides a basic explanation of some fundamental legal concepts that will help you understand the Guide, including the different sources of law, the powers of the different levels of government to regulate water, and the different meanings of the term government.
The first chapter of the Guide provides a thorough discussion of the law around the ownership and use of the land underneath and next to water. To do this, the chapter is divided into three parts.
The first part of the chapter discusses the ownership of the land underneath water, called the beds and shores. This part starts with the presumption that the provincial government owns all the beds and shores in Alberta, before explaining the circumstances when someone other than the provincial government might own the beds and shores. It also explains the rules for transferring the ownership of the property underneath water, with a focus on beds and shores owned by the government.
The second part of the chapter provides an overview of the public rights to use land owned by the government and, specifically, government-owned beds and shores. In particular, this part discusses the rules around the use of government owned land for recreational purposes, such as boating and fishing, as well as its use for construction activities, such as building a dock or removing aquatic weeds.
Finally, the third part of the chapter discusses the use and ownership of the land right next to the beds and shores, which is called riparian property. Specifically, this part discusses how to figure out who owns the property next to water, as well as the special rights that land comes with and the special restrictions that apply to it.
The second chapter of the Guide deals with the law around the use and flow of water in Alberta. To do this, the chapter is divided into three parts.
The first part of the chapter outlines the law governing the use of water in Alberta. It begins with an overview of the tools the provincial government uses to allocate water, meaning how the government decides who gets to use water in Alberta and how much they get to use. Then, this part explains the different types of government authorizations that allow a person to take and use water. Finally, this part provides a brief explanation of how water utilities use water licences to provide water to individual users, including how to deal with any problems you may have with your water utility.
The second part of this chapter discusses the government approvals that are necessary for any activity that affects the flow, level, or location of water, including which activities require an approval and how to apply for an approval should you require one.
Finally, the third part of the chapter explains some of the procedural mechanisms behind the law, including how to appeal government decisions about the use and flow of water. It also explains the legal mechanisms the government can use to enforce compliance with the law.
the third chapter of the Guide deals with the systems that are in place to manage water quality in Alberta. To do this, the chapter is divided into four parts.
The first part of the chapter discusses the legal tools available to each of the different levels of government to manage and plan for water quality in Alberta. Specifically, this part describes the federal power to enter into agreements with other governments around water quality; the provincial land use planning and water management regimes; and the legal tools available to municipal governments to manage water quality within municipalities.
The second part of the chapter discusses the federal and provincial regulatory schemes governing large scale industrial and commercial projects that are likely to impact water quality in Alberta. In particular, this part outlines the provincial environmental approval process for large scale projects, before explaining the provincial environmental assessment process and the federal impact assessment process.
The third part of the chapter describes the federal and provincial legislation that prohibits releasing harmful substances into the waters in Alberta. This part starts with a description of the general legislation against harmful substance releases, before turning to a discussion of the legislation that protects fish and migratory birds from substance releases.
Finally, the fourth part of the chapter provides an overview of the regulatory systems that govern drinking water in Alberta. It also discusses the regulation of sewage and storm drainage systems in the province, with a focus on how these systems are designed to maintain water quality.
The fourth chapter of the Guide deals with the law around water in Indigenous communities in Alberta. This chapter covers many of the same topics as the other chapters, but with a focus on how the law specifically applies in Indigenous communities. To do this, the chapter is divided into five parts.
The first part of the chapter provides a brief description of the Indigenous peoples who live in Alberta, as well as some comments about how to understand the law that affects Indigenous communities, including how it is different from the rest of the law discussed in this guide.
The second part of the chapter addresses the law governing the ownership of the lands under water, known as the beds and shores, that are found within Indigenous communities.
The third part of the chapter discusses the rights to take and use water that belong to Indigenous communities. In particular, it begins with a discussion of riparian and groundwater rights on reserves and in Metis Settlements. Then, it explores two additional types of water rights that Indigenous peoples can claim; namely, implied treaty rights to water and traditional aboriginal rights to water.
The fourth part of the chapter discusses how issues of water quality are managed on reserves and in Metis Settlements. To do this, it starts with a discussion of the regulation of water pollution in Indigenous communities, before turning to the regulation of drinking water, drainage, and sewage systems on reserves and in Metis Settlements.
Finally, the fifth part of this chapter discusses the legal mechanisms that Indigenous peoples can use to enforce their water rights, both against the government and against private citizens and companies. In particular, this part explains the constitutional limits on legislation that interferes with Indigenous rights, the requirement for the government to consult with Indigenous peoples before taking actions that might impact their rights, and the ability of Indigenous peoples to sue private citizens and organizations that have infringed their rights.
Watch for announcements for webinars about water law and policy in Alberta later this spring.
The Environmental Law Centre thanks the Alberta Law Foundation for its financial support of the Water Law in Alberta project.
ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW CENTRE:
The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to advocate for laws that will sustain ecosystems and ensure a healthy environment and to engage citizens in the laws’ creation and enforcement. Our vision is a society where our laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations and supports ecosystem health.
As a charity, the Environmental Law Centre depends on your financial support. Help us to continue to educate and champion for strong environmental laws, through tools such as our blog and all of our other resources, so that all Albertans can enjoy a healthy environment. Your support makes a difference.
Donate online today