Under the Water Act, in order to divert and use surface or ground water in Alberta, you must receive a licence from the government first.

These licences identify the water source (such as the North Saskatchewan River), the location of where the water will be diverted from, the volume, rate and timing of water diversion, the priority of the "water right", and all the conditions that the diversion must adhere to.

Licences can be issued for temporary diversions, typically with a maximum limit of one year diversion limit, but there are longer options, depending on the project type.

Licence applications, though, are no longer being accepted for surface water sources from the South Saskatchewan River Basin, which includes the Bow, Oldman, and South Saskatchewan River sub-basins.

Currently, there are roughly 25,000 water licences throughout Alberta.

On March 7th, the Alberta government announced that they are moving away from their older paper system completely.

Those who were issued a water licence before November, 2021 are now required to move their licence to the new online Digital Regulatory Assurance System by the end of this year.

Not only will this help the licence holders to save time by being able to do everything online, but it will also help the province to know how much water is available during severe droughts.

"In 2024, we can’t have a system that relies on papers, faxes and other methods to manage water licences and track Alberta’s water use," said Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz in a media release on March 7th. "I want to thank all the water licence holders for helping us by moving their licence to the digital system as quickly as possible. It’ll save you time and effort and help us make every drop count this year."

The Digital Regulatory Assurance System is a completely confidential and secure online platform that will help licence holders submit reports, apply for renewals or amendments, receive email reminders, and track their status.

The information in the system will be used by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas to help water users and managers make decisions on how they are going to manage drought.

By moving the licence to the online system, that does not change or replace the original licence in any way, including the priority number.

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