Alberta Municipalities Policies and Resolutions

Municipal Water Policies

In 2012, the ABmunis Board approved a project to develop municipal water policies. The Board’s rationale:  

  • Recognized that water is essential to municipal sustainability. 
  • Acknowledged many municipalities have capacity issues and struggle to maintain water and wastewater collection, distribution, and treatment systems in light of rising standards, shortage of skilled water operators, revenue shortfalls and concerns over regionalization. 
  • Understood the need for more proactive water management as increasing water demand and decreasing supply put pressure on aquatic ecosystems and constrain economic and population growth.  

With significant member engagement, the project culminated in the passage of four policies: 

  1. 2012—Municipal Water Policy on Water Management and the Viability of Municipal Water Systems. This policy included a set of foundational municipal water management principles. 
  2. 2013–Municipal Water Policy on Wetlands.  
  3. 2014—Municipal Water Policy on Stormwater. 
  4. 2014—Municipal Water Conservation, Efficiency and Productivity Plan. 

These four resolutions included the set of water management principles and were adopted by the Board. These principles are based on the leadership role municipalities play in the many facets of water management. The principles also act as an overarching water management framework used to guide policy development and advocacy.   

The issues covered in these four policies remain of concern to our members, but the policies require review and amendment.  

The ABmunis Sustainability and Environment Committee at ABmunis has taken the lead in reviewing these policies. This review is a collaborative process with input from our members.

Alberta Municipalities' policy review process

April 2022: The Sustainability & Environment Committee endorsed an engagement plan to review the set of ABmunis municipal water management principles.  

May to August 2022: Through a survey, members confirmed the continued relevancy of the municipal water management principles while suggesting some revisions.   

November 2022: The Sustainability & Environment Committee discussed and revised the municipal water management principles, in light of feedback received from members, the Committee and the Board.  

January 2023: The ABmunis Board of Directors adopted an updated set of municipal water management principles. Adoption of these principles allows ABmunis to advocate on issues using a principles-based approach.  

July 2023: The Sustainability & Environment Committee recommended reviewing, developing and updating one of the four water policies each year.   

November 2023: The Sustainability & Environment Committee chose to first review and update the 2014 Municipal Water Conservation, Efficiency and Productivity Plan. 

2024: The Sustainability & Environment Committee is studying municipal water usage trends and will develop water conservation target options to bring to members for their engagement. 

Alberta Municipalities' Municipal Water Principles

Role of Municipalities

The following statements represent the roles municipalities would like to play—assuming the appropriate resources and support:  

  1. Municipalities as an order of government have a role to play in responsible water management as leaders in water conservation, efficiency, productivity, and maintenance of healthy aquatic ecosystems.   
  2. Municipalities operate water and wastewater systems and employ quality assurance, controls, and asset management practices towards ensuring the sustainability of their water infrastructure, requiring support from other orders of government and Alberta Municipalities to succeed.   
  3. Municipalities should implement and maintain appropriate risk management approaches, such as cybersecurity risks and environmental risks, to consistently deliver safe water to Albertans and maintain the integrity of water systems.  
  4. Municipalities should have effective mechanisms and adequate resources contributing to the 'Water for Life' goals of ensuring Albertans have a safe and secure supply of drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems, and reliable quality supplies for a sustainable economy.    
  5. Municipalities are engaged in shaping water policies and legislation and have the authority and resources for effective monitoring, reporting and enforcement, in conjunction with other orders of government.   
  6. Municipalities are active partners in implementing provincial and regional land and watershed management plans that reduce the cumulative effects of development on aquatic ecosystems.   
  7. Municipalities should proactively develop regional water and wastewater regional systems, where practical. 

Municipal Water Management Principles

The following principles were developed and informed through research and consultation with elected officials, CAOs, and staff with an interest in water management.   

  1. Water is essential to municipal sustainability in terms of a community's economic viability, environmental integrity, social wellbeing, cultural vibrancy, and good governance.   
  2. Healthy aquatic ecosystems and source water protection are essential to providing Albertans with safe, secure drinking water and reliable quality water supplies for a sustainable economy.   
  3. In times of water shortages, water for human health must be given the highest priority.   
  4. Water allocation legislation, policies and practices recognize that water is a scarce limited resource with significant present and future value.   
  5. Decision-making should be supported by clear, scientifically-based, accurate and publicly available information on water availability, quality, use, and the health of aquatic ecosystems.   
  6. Water management should be based on a risk management approach that considers human health, aquatic health, capacity, and economic prosperity.   
  7. Investment in water resources needs to be a high priority for governments and all water stakeholders. Investment in water management should prioritize regional approaches and long-term financial viability of all municipalities.  
  8. Governments must include climate change adaptation and mitigation in water planning and management (e.g., infrastructure, source water protection, wetland protection, drought, stormwater management, flooding, water allocation, etc.). 

Recognizing that our water supply is not limitless, Alberta’s Water for Life strategy set a provincial target for water conservation of a 30 percent improvement in overall water conservation, efficiency, and productivity levels. A key action to achieving this target calls for the province’s major water-using sectors to develop water conservation, efficiency, and productivity (CEP) plans.

As the urban municipal sector is one of Alberta’s seven major water-using sectors, Alberta Municipalities has developed a Conservation, Efficiency, and Productivity Plan proposing an outcomes-based approach to water savings. The Plan outlines an overall flexible strategy for achieving water conservation, efficiency, and productivity objectives that recognizes that capacity and issues vary between municipalities.

Stormwater management is an important concern for municipalities across Alberta. Aging infrastructure and the expansion of impervious areas are creating challenges for managing the quality and volume of stormwater that flows across urban landscapes.

To create an enabling environment for improved stormwater management, Alberta Municipalities has developed the 2014 Municipal Water Policy on Stormwater. The Policies address challenges identified through member outreach and included policy solutions on areas such as:

  • Stormwater reuse.
  • Urban flooding.
  • Climate change.
  • Low impact development.
  • Infrastructure development.

In 2013, Alberta Municipalities developed a second policy document focused on wetlands. These policies were made in line with the Government of Alberta work to develop a new Alberta Wetland Policy to replace an interim policy which was released in 1993. Developing our own policy gives Alberta Municipalities the opportunity to raise the profile and understanding of wetlands among members and to create an enabling environment for wetland conservation and restoration.

Based on the Water Primer and Discussion Paper, Alberta Municipalities’ members approved an initial set of municipal policies in 2012 pertaining to water management and allocation as well as the viability of municipal water and wastewater systems.

The WDPD offers a full introduction to water issues in Alberta and is a good resource to check if you have any questions and want to learn more.