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There are 3 Triggers That will Make the Province Declare a Drought Emergency

The province has released it 2024 Drought Response Plan which will help guide Alberta through any and all drought conditions, the province says. The plan covers conservation plans and water-sharing agreements, emergency declarations and prioritizing water for human health and safety.

The plan outlines:

The five stages of Alberta’s drought response.
The roles and responsibilities of partners, including government, to help everyone collaborate and communicate.
The regulatory and non-regulatory approaches and tools that may be used in various drought conditions.
How and when emergencies would be declared, with recognition that declaring an emergency is used as a last resort.
Current situation: Stage 4
Alberta is currently at Stage 4 of the Drought Response Plan. Government is now working proactively with major water users to employ all existing regulatory and non-regulatory tools available. This includes creating water shortage response plans, fast-tracking temporary diversion licenses to allow water to be temporarily diverted from new sources, and the water-sharing agreements announced on April 19, along with other steps being implemented across southern Alberta.

Stage 5: Declaring an emergency
Under the 2024 Drought Response Plan, Alberta would only declare an emergency under the Water Act as a last resort. Should the government declare an emergency, Albertans should be advised that:

Emergency declarations are temporary and allow government to prioritise water uses.
Emergency declarations do not replace the regulatory requirements of the Water Act.
Emergency declarations only apply to a specific location. This could range from a small geographical area within a sub-basin to the entire South Saskatchewan River basin or province, depending on the severity of a drought.
There are three triggers that would make the province consider declaring an emergency:

If there is not sufficient water available for the priority uses. Human health and safety is the top priority, followed closely by ensuring sufficient water supplies for critical infrastructure, livestock welfare and critical environmental needs.
If there is increasing distress from local authorities, or if local authorities are unable to respond to issues caused by drought. For example, if a state of local emergency is declared or if the Provincial Emergency Coordination Centre is activated at level 3 or higher.
If Alberta’s water management system becomes so overwhelmed that staff cannot process or implement regulatory measures in a timely manner, impeding the drought response.
These triggers will be watched closely. Each situation will be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine when or if an emergency declaration is needed.

Alberta has never before declared an emergency under the Water Act. In the event one is declared, Alberta’s government, working closely with water users, would temporarily take steps to manage water in the emergency area. Various steps may be needed, depending on the situation. Potential actions could include suspending approvals, registrations or water licenses, and designating the purposes and volumes for which water may be diverted or used.

While drought is a real risk, May and June often come with risk of floods. That’s why we have 24-hour monitoring and emergency response, as well as the new $125-million Drought and Flood Protection Program and investments in wetlands, watersheds and modernizing Alberta’s water management system.

Click here to read the entire drought response plan.

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