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Facts about water

There is a vast amount of data on water quantity, quality, and use in Alberta. What follows is a snapshot of information relevant to AUMA’s water policy development. Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils are a good source of regional information, while Alberta Environment’s Facts about Water in Alberta Booklet provides a province wide overview of water sources and management. The Alberta Water Portal is a central repository for all things water in the province that is another useful source of information.

How much water does Alberta have?

Photo Source: Government of Alberta. Facts About Water in Alberta. 2010

  • Alberta makes up over 11 per cent of Canada’s population, but only has 2.2 per cent of the country’s freshwater supply.
  • More than 80 per cent of Alberta’s water supply is concentrated in the far northern half of the province and 87 per cent of surface water flows north to the Arctic Ocean, but 80 per cent of the province’s water demand is in the south.
  • Some parts of Alberta have already been challenged by shortages in water supply as their populations grow, such as the areas around Lethbridge, Drumheller, and Medicine Hat.
  • Water quantity varies highly in Alberta, resulting in unpredictable events such flooding in southern Alberta coinciding with drought conditions in the north.

What does the future hold?

  • Alberta’s population is the fastest growing in Canada, increasing demand for water every year.
  • Glaciers and snowpacks in Alberta are melting earlier and faster as the world’s climate changes, potentially making our water supply increasingly unpredictable.
  • Precipitation is expected to become much more dynamic, meaning that both droughts and extreme storm events like flooding could become more common.
  • We currently take most of the water we use from surface supplies, but as those become less stable we will likely take more from groundwater.
  • While deep groundwater can be cheaper to treat as it does not need to be filtered, aquifers can be depleted or contaminated if too much is drawn too fast or in the wrong way, rendering them unsuitable for our use.


Graphic Source: Government of Alberta. Facts About Water in Alberta. 2010

What do we use water for?

  • A stable, plentiful water supply is essential to many of the province’s key industries including the agricultural and energy sectors.
  • The following sectors are allocated the largest volumes of water:
    • Irrigation 43.5%
    • Commercial Cooling (electricity generation) 23.5%
    • Municipal 11.3%
    • Industrial (Oil, Gas) 6.2%
    • Commercial 6%
  • There are over 187,500 water license holders in Alberta.

Graphic Source: Government of Alberta. Facts About Water in Alberta. 2010