You might have read our blog post back in July talking about WWF’s Canada-wide assessment of our most prominent watersheds. Or our post about the drought-like conditions affecting much of Alberta. WWF’s ambitious Canadian watershed project, along with flooding, wildfires, and drought across our province this summer, have gotten us thinking – what is Alberta’s water future?
Agriculture, urban development, and industrial needs all put pressure on our reserves or ground and surface water. So does your and my personal use.
Of course, water supplies replenish themselves, but our growing population along with climate change are making this cycle, and the availability of our water supply, more variable. With Alberta’s population expected to almost double by 2040, the majority of which will be seen in the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, where will the water we need come from?1
The University of Alberta’s Water Initiative is already working on a project mapping Alberta’s water future, and their research is looking at water supply under various climate variability and climate change scenarios. The Government of Alberta runs the Water for Life strategy, which is committed to managing and safeguarding our water resources. Alberta Innovates, Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES) committed $10 million in 2013 to water research projects dedicated to a number of water areas, from drinking water and security to ecosystem management and conservation.
Climate change is perhaps the most challenging component of this to map: we already know that the water cycle is becoming more uncertain due to climate change, and extreme weather is increasing in frequency. Some of these changes include changes in the duration and intensity of precipitation, decreases in snowfall and shorter, warmer winters (like the one we saw this year). We’re also seeing 100-year storms increase in frequency. But it’s not entirely clear how these changes will proceed in the future, and what we can expect over the next generations in conjunction with development, agriculture, and our own everyday needs.
Understanding our sources of ground and surface water in the province will be critical to managing it and ensuring availability for decades to come. It’s important we understand our relationship with water and how our actions will shape it, as it shapes us.
Government of Alberta. (2013). Water for Life. Retrieved from: http://environment.gov.ab.ca/info/library/6364.pdf.