Albertans Right to Water Act

Albertans Right to Water Act – Protecting and Conserving Water For Future Generations

The headwaters starting at the glaciers of the Rocky Mountains are the source of all our rivers, streams, and tributaries. Alberta’s mountain headwaters provide 90 per cent of Alberta’s drinking and irrigation water, providing essential life and habitat and livelihoods across Alberta and the prairies.

The problem is that there is less and less of this water and what exists, is already over-allocated. To match global crop production to expected demand, water use for irrigation would have to increase by 146% by the middle of this century. One minor problem. Water is already maxed out.

Water is life and we have a responsibility to protect it. We also have responsibility to the life and habitats outside our borders, where water flows from the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta to the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie River.

Let’s get smarter and instead of just reacting in times of crisis, plan for and invest in conservation.

Many countries and jurisdictions, including Ireland, are looking at legally protecting the rights of nature, including water. New Zealand has protected the Whanganui River, and developed Maori oversight in keeping with Treaty. The Innu have recognized rights of personhood for the Magpie River in Quebec – the right to exist, to flow, and to sue.

Rights conversations always involve balances, but for way too long, the legal protections for the environment and for Alberta’s headwaters have been weak and ineffective. We watch as lakes become un-swimmable, rivers unfishable, groundwater contaminated, municipal water undrinkable.

I commit to protect the rights of our headwaters and rivers to exist, to flow, and support the livelihoods of all Albertans and for future generations. 

No one else standing for leadership of this party will make this commitment to you.

As Leader of the Alberta NDP, I will:

  1. I will appoint a Youth and Elders Council from across the province to advise on the Rights of Nature that can and should be protected.
  • Recognizing our bond with nature, it becomes essential to honour and treat it as we would a neighbour or friend, sharing in mutual well-being and responsibilities.
  • The Council will advise on the most urgent areas for protection. We will then work together with community stewards and Indigenous guardians to ensure sustainable uses for the economy, recreation, and long-term well-being.
  1. I will create an Alberta Water Rights Act which will elevate protections of our headwaters and main arteries to flow and exists. 
  • Some of which exist today only in policy documents like land-use sub-plans but land-use plans and policies in Alberta have not been developed with sufficient urgency or legal status.
  • The Act will also require Alberta Regulators like the Alberta Energy Regulator to actively monitor and disclose a range of water conditions, collaborate with other jurisdictions affected by Alberta water, and inform the public in real time when there are issues with this precious resource.
  1. Advocate for community and nature guardian and conservation programs so that communities can get directly involved in their own priorities for water conservation, recreation, and innovation.
  • This includes municipalities and groups such as Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Alberta Wilderness Association, Ranchers, Farmers, and Indigenous Communities – the same groups who mobilized to Stop Coal Mining on the Eastern Slopes.
  1. And as Premier, I would establish a Centre of Excellence at the University of Lethbridge to invest in the research, development, and commercialization of innovative water technologies to help use water smarter.
  • This centre will leverage the strategic location of Lethbridge, close to the headwaters of the Eastern Slopes, as well as the university’s expertise in agriculture and conservation to develop and deploy pragmatic and innovation solutions for Alberta and the world.

5. Jobs, Industry and Investment: Developing a Water Conscious Economy
Alberta’s history must also reflect our future, but we must do better for the next seven generations. To this end, we must be leaders in Canada with a diversified economy which will preserve our water, before it is too late. We must employ the next generation in industries that we will grow to be water and climate conscious.

The commitment I make today is rooted in Cree teachings. It is rooted in Treaty. When we recognize our relationship with water and the land, then we fulfil our obligations of reciprocity.

It is informed by the work of other jurisdictions.

The Albertans Right to Water Act will protect water so that we have jobs, businesses, and thriving industries well into the future. 

Most of all, it will protect our lakes, streams, and rivers for our kids and future grandkids so that they, once again, can earn a living, and so they can swim, fish, and play.