Environmental Flows Program

This program assesses water flow in freshwater ecosystems as part of provincial river and stream conservation efforts.

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Environmental Flows Program

About this program

Environmental flows (also known as instream flows, or instream flow needs) describes the quantity, timing and quality of water flow required to sustain freshwater ecosystems, including fish populations as well as the human livelihoods that depend on these freshwater ecosystems.

When we withdraw water from a river or lake to meet our own needs, we must also consider how much water must remain to meet the aquatic ecosystem’s needs. This difficult and complex question is addressed through the Environmental Flows Program.

The Environmental Flows Program works to ensure vital water flow and lake levels are maintained for healthy aquatic ecosystems in Alberta’s rivers and lakes through science, policy and partnerships.

  • Science

    Our science experts:

    • apply science and ecology principles
    • conduct environmental flow studies and analyses
    • conduct research on aquatic and riparian habitat
  • Policy

    Our program policy:

    • provides water use limit guidance and policy recommendations
    • follows the Water for Life strategy which outlines the provincial commitment to manage and safeguard Alberta’s water resources by:
      • ensuring there is a secure supply of drinking water
      • maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems
    • provides a reliable supply of water for a sustainable economy
    • supports water management studies as needed to comply with provincial and federal laws
  • Partnerships

    Our strategic partnerships:

    • provide departmental coordination and scientific expertise
    • work collaboratively with Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs)
    • work with other levels of government, universities and local stakeholders

What environmental flows are and why they play an important role in river ecology.

Find information on our partners as well as provincial and international resources.

Environmental Flows Program projects completed in watersheds across Alberta.