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. 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:
- Legal protection of environmental flows;
- Integration of land and water management;
- Consideration and conservation of aquatic habitat; and
- 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.