The implementation of the regulatory framework is achieved through the dam and canal safety regulatory processes. Key processes 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 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.

The Dam Safety Team does not have the authority to issue authorizations, but provides technical support to the regional Water Act approvals teams, who hold authority for authorizations. The team performs technical reviews of the authorization applications regarding dams or canals and establishes dam and canal safety terms and conditions for authorizations.

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

The dam and canal safety ongoing monitoring and compliance assurance processes are designed to provide adequate assurance that the regulated community is complying with the Dam Safety Regulatory Requirements included in the Dam Safety Regulatory Framework. 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 at: Dam and canal safety regulatory framework.

Audit inspections by dam and canal safety regulator

The Dam Safety team performs 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 or critical dam and canal safety deficiency to the Director or 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

This process includes education, prevention and enforcement regarding the emergency preparedness and response requirements for safety of dams and canals, under different scenarios of potential failure of these structures. This also includes building and maintaining emergency preparedness and response tools and arranging, collaborating and participating in different education and prevention events arranged by other emergency preparedness and response teams and stakeholders as required.

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.

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