Dam and canal safety – Regulatory processes

Several key processes are used to implement the dam safety regulatory framework.


The implementation of the dam and canal regulatory framework is delivered within the Alberta Environment and Protected Areas Compliance Assurance Program. Key dam safety regulatory processes related to the program include:

  • authorizations
  • on-going monitoring and compliance assurance
  • deficiency tracking and follow-ups
  • emergency preparedness and response
  • regulatory reporting

Key processes


An authorization is the proponent's permission, in accordance with the legislation, to proceed with an activity, operation or water diversion. Requirements included in an authorization are the "project-specific rules" for that activity and non-compliance with them is an offence.

Authorizations consider the life cycle of an activity (that is, all phases of the activity such as design, construction, operation, maintenance, surveillance, decommissioning, closure and reclamation). This enables 'cradle-to-grave' environmental protection and natural resource management.

Authorizations are issued by Environment and Protected Areas. Dam Safety provides technical support to Alberta Environment and Protected Areas by performing technical reviews of applications involving dams or canals and establishing dam and canal safety regulatory terms and conditions for an authorization.

Authorizations can be amended, renewed, cancelled and suspended. Before issuing an authorization, the terms and conditions and the consequences of non-compliance are discussed with the regulated party to ensure that those are clear and well understood.

Note that the procedures and works of the Regulatory Approvals Centre (RAC), departmental Approvals and Compliance, Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), and any other regulatory authority that has jurisdiction under the Water Act or any other act or regulation are not part of dam and canal safety processes. For more information, see:

Ongoing monitoring and compliance assurance

Ongoing monitoring and compliance assurance processes monitor dam owner compliance with all applicable dam safety regulatory requirements. The key dam and canal safety ongoing monitoring and compliance assurance processes include:

Mandatory regulatory compliance reporting by dam owners

Dam owners must report to the regulator on plans and operation, safety assessments and evaluations, and safety directives. The regulator performs a technical review on the submissions to ensure compliance. For details on the type and frequency of the documents to be submitted, see Dam Safety Regulatory Requirements.

Audit inspections by dam and canal safety regulator

The Dam Safety team performs regular audit inspections annually to ensure compliance with the regulation and to review the safety of dams and canals throughout the province. Each year, audit inspections are scheduled based on consequence classification and existing safety issues. All coal and oil sands tailings dams are audited annually.

Deficiency tracking and follow-ups

Dam owners must document and track all deficiencies and report any dam and canal safety deficiencies to the regulator. The regulator tracks all reported dam and canal safety and critical dam and canal safety deficiencies and performs follow-up activities with the dam owner and operator to ensure each deficiency is remediated, managed or mitigated appropriately.

Emergency preparedness and response

Dam owners must understand the risks posed by their structures to themselves and to downstream stakeholders. Emergency preparedness and response are key elements in preventing and mitigating the effects of a dam emergency. Emergency preparedness and response activities include building and maintaining emergency preparedness and response tools and collaborating with downstream stakeholders to hold regular exercises to test those tools.

Regulatory reporting

This process includes reporting on dam and canal safety regulatory performance measures and activities. Dam Safety is in the process of upgrading its database to be able to report on dam and canal safety regulatory performance measures and activities in real time. The target for completing the database upgrade and beginning reporting is 2018-19.