Regional planning sets out a new approach for managing our lands and natural resources to achieve our province's long-term environmental, economic and social goals.
The planning takes a phased approach that begins with gathering and assessing information, input and advice, followed by receiving feedback and drafting the regional plan, and ends with finalizing and approving the plan. The Land Use Secretariat leads the process for developing regional plans for government. Alberta Environment and Protected Areas contributes to regional plan development and implementation with content related to environmental and resource management outcomes for air, land, water and biodiversity.
For more information on regional planning see: North Saskatchewan Region Land Use Planning
Land, resource and environmental management must continue even when a regional plan is not in place. Therefore, sub-regional and local planning initiatives will continue as needed.
Regional environmental management frameworks
Regional environmental management frameworks help manage the long-term cumulative effects of development and activities on the air, water and biodiversity. The frameworks:
- include regional outcomes and objectives
- identify indicators to help understand conditions of the environment
- set regional threshold values, including triggers and limits
- establish a management response if triggers or limits are exceeded
- outline monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements
This proactive management approach helps ensure negative trends are identified early and reduces the risk of exceeding regional ambient limits.
Surface Water Quality Management Framework for the North Saskatchewan and Battle Rivers
The Surface Water Quality Management Framework for the North Saskatchewan and Battle Rivers was released in 2022, building upon the numerous initiatives for cumulative effects management within the region.
- Fact sheet: Surface water quality management framework for the North Saskatchewan and Battle Rivers: North Saskatchewan Region
The regional-scale framework establishes an approach for monitoring and managing the cumulative impacts of human activities on water quality in both the North Saskatchewan and Battle rivers. The framework:
- establishes a regional objective for surface water quality
- identifies key indicators of water quality
- sets surface water quality management thresholds for the suite of indicators (i.e., triggers, limits, and if appropriate in the future, targets)
- identifies a management response process that will be initiated, if an indicator exceeds a threshold
- creates an integrated and robust management approach that is consistent amongst the province’s land use planning regions
- describes roles and responsibilities for relevant groups
Edmonton metropolitan region
A key sub-region within the North Saskatchewan region is the Edmonton metropolitan region. This key region includes the Industrial Heartland, which is home to world-scale oil and gas refineries, chemical and petrochemical facilities.
The Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board represents 13 municipalities surrounding the City of Edmonton and regional municipalities with populations of 5,000 or more. Nested within the region is the Industrial Heartland, which is an area zoned for heavy industrial development.
To view a map of the region, see: Capital Region/Industrial Heartland Cumulative Effects Program Map.
Cumulative effects management in the Edmonton metropolitan region (formerly called the Capital Region) is important, as there are many different uses, pressures and values. Edmonton area regional environmental management frameworks are cumulative effects management tools that:
- outline specific environmental outcomes
- provide strategies and targets for managing growth pressures
For more information, see: Cumulative Effects Management System within the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region
Sub-regional environmental management frameworks
Edmonton region air quality management framework
The Capital Region Air Quality Management Framework presents a collaborative, shared vision for managing ambient air quality in the Edmonton metropolitan region. Supporting documents describe the framework and its development in more detail.
Water management framework and implementation
The water management framework for the Industrial Heartland (IH) and Capital Region is the result of a collaborative, cumulative effects management approach to protect the reach of the North Saskatchewan River, from Devon to Pakan, which is directly impacted by municipal and industrial effluent discharge. It also describes the implementation work completed during the first 5 years and reaffirms stakeholder commitment to future work.
- Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region
- Overview: Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region
- Five Years of Implementation: 2007-2012
- Five Years of Implementation: 2007-2012 – Overview for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region
The following factsheet summarizes Project 2, an engineering study to evaluate 5 alternative scenarios for wastewater treatment and water supply management for all municipal and industrial entities in the Industrial Heartland and Edmonton region.
Effluent characterization program
The Effluent Characterization Program (ECP) is an important component of implementing cumulative effects management on the North Saskatchewan River, particularly in the Devon to Pakan reach (Industrial Heartland Reach). The program describes monitoring and reporting requirements for effluent directly entering the North Saskatchewan River, with the objective of providing economically and scientifically sound data for tools that are used to monitor, evaluate, and inform management decisions in this reach of the river. The results from this program will also be used to further develop maximum allowable loads and to support several other water quality management tools used by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas to manage water quality in the North Saskatchewan River.
Two regional multi-stakeholder committees advise Alberta Environment and Protected Areas on the frameworks. The Capital Region Air Quality Management Framework Oversight Advisory Committee and the Water Management Framework Advisory Committee, which meet quarterly to continue advising government as their respective frameworks are implemented. Stakeholders include:
- environmental non-government organizations
- provincial government
Reports, studies and fact sheets
Air quality implementation
The Capital Region Implementation Progress Report provides an update on the efforts to date by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, and stakeholders in the Edmonton region on addressing air quality concerns and identifies upcoming implementation priorities.
Ambient air quality assessment reports
The Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Reports assign an ambient air quality level to each monitoring station in the Edmonton region for the framework's 4 contaminants of concern (nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone). The Backgrounder is to provide the context for the annual Assessment Summary Reports.
- Backgrounder – Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Reports
- 2015 Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Report
- 2014 Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Report
- 2013 Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Report
- 2012 Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Report
- 2011 Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Report
Capital Region Fine Particulate Matter Response
The Capital Region Fine Particulate Matter Response is the mandatory action plan to address the exceedance of the Canada-wide Standard for fine particulate matter in the Edmonton Region because of the 2011 and 2012 Ambient Air Quality Assessment Summary Report. The Response was developed collaboratively between municipalities, industry, non-governmental organizations, airsheds, and the federal and provincial governments. The goal is to reduce ambient fine particulate matter concentration and remain below Level 4 at all monitoring stations within the Edmonton region through 3 key objectives focusing on action, investigation, and engagement.
- Capital Region Fine Particulate Matter Response
- Capital Region Fine Particulate Matter Science Report
Supporting documents, such as the Capital Region Fine Particulate Matter Science Report were used in the development of the Response. The following documents provide the Response, explain particulate matter in the Edmonton area, and the process used to develop the Response.
- Fine Particulate Matter in the Capital Region – Capital Region Air Quality Management Framework Process Overview
- Fine Particulate Matter in the Capital Region – Response Overview
- Fine Particulate Matter in the Capital Region – Factsheet
- Capital Region and Red Deer Fine Particulate Matter Responses – Education and Outreach Opportunities
Photochemical air quality modelling is a useful scientific tool to understand the impacts of emission source sectors on ambient air quality. Two studies have been undertaken in the Edmonton region. The Capital Region Particulate Matter Air Modelling Assessment describes early parameterization of the Community Multi-scale Air Quality (CMAQ) model for use in the Edmonton region. The Formation of Secondary PM2.5 in the Capital Region Study further describes the process of improving CMAQ performance in the Edmonton region.
- Capital Region Particulate Matter Air Modelling Assessment Final Report
- Formation of Secondary PM2.5 in the Capital Region Study Final Report
As part of the Capital Region Air Quality Management Framework implementation, the department conducted an air monitoring network assessment. The resulting report consolidated the network assessments conducted up to 2013, with some supplementary analyses, to provide an assessment of ambient air quality monitoring in the region.
The following framework sets out a vision, outcomes, principles, and presents 4 strategies to improve the management of elemental sulphur in the Industrial Heartland
Miscellaneous water studies in the North Saskatchewan River watershed
The impacts of the 2005 CN Rail oil spill and subsequent treatment to vegetation in Wabamun Lake had not been assessed since 2007. Therefore, in 2017 Alberta Environment and Protected Areas completed an assessment of the ecosystem health of previously treated, contaminated, and unaffected lacustrine marshes of Wabamun Lake to provide a long-term prognosis for the viability of these marshes.
Water modelling studies on the North Saskatchewan River
This report documents the configuration, calibration and validation of the river water quality model for the mainstem of the North Saskatchewan River from Devon to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. The model represents hydrodynamics, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, organic carbon, algal interactions and other parameters influences by tributaries, municipal wastewater treatment plants, industrial facilities, combined with sewer overflows and storm water. The model calibration period was from January 2000 through March 2008.
This report presents the results of a field campaign to study the physical mixing of the ambient river water with the effluent from 2 wastewater treatment plants and an industrial facility on the North Saskatchewan River. The main objectives of this study were to determine the downstream distance required to achieve full mixing of the effluent and to measure spatially distributed tracer concentration and water velocity in the mixing zone such that dispersion patterns could be determined.
This application of a dynamic water quality model represents the North Saskatchewan River reach, and how it can potentially be impacted by activities in the Edmonton region and IH. The department has developed a hydrodynamic and water quality model, based on the Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC) platform for the river system. The use of this model application evaluates contaminant loadings, and their effect on river water quality under various management and engineering options in the IH area. Additionally, the dynamic water quality model is the basis for a larger integrated model of the NSR basin to support broader-scale watershed and regional planning.
This report details the configuration and calibration of the NSR EFDC model. This model provides a sound basis for conducting scenario simulations. Boundary conditions can be readily changed to evaluate effects on conditions throughout the system. The model can be further improved through refinement of tributary boundary conditions, perhaps through watershed model simulation.
This report details the enhancements to a Loading Simulation Program in C++ (LSPC platform) watershed model for the NSR. The modelling objectives includes incorporating non-contributing areas into the model, configuring the model for sediment loading and transport, and delivering a fully functional model that is ready for performing scenario analysis.
Water quality studies on the North Saskatchewan River
These reports provide an overview of technical studies tracing the cumulative effects of natural and man-made stressors on a portion of the North Saskatchewan River, located between the Devon and Pakan long-term river network (LTRN) monitoring stations.
- Synthesis of Recent Knowledge on Water Quality, Sediment Quality and Non-fish Biota in the North Saskatchewan River
- North Saskatchewan River: Water Quality and Related Studies (2007-2012)
- North Saskatchewan River Quality for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region
This report outlines water quality trends in the North Saskatchewan River in the Edmonton region, based upon analysis of data gathered from 4 monitoring sites located at:
- Devon, near Edmonton
- Pakan, near Edmonton
- Upstream of Rocky Mountain House
- Highway 17 near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border
- Investigations of Trends in Select Water Quality Variables at Long-Term Monitoring Sites on the North Saskatchewan River
To enable the goal of maintaining or improving water quality in the North Saskatchewan River, water quality objectives (WQOs) have been established for the Industrial Heartland reach, inclusive of the river mainstem from Devon downstream to Pakan. The WQOs apply specifically to the long-term river network (LTRN) monitoring sites at Devon and Pakan, and are based on ambient in-stream concentrations, except where ambient concentrations exceed the most stringent federal/provincial water quality guidelines. WQOs are the basis for calculating maximum allowable loads (MALs) and provide a measure against which long-term changes can be assessed.
Aquatic plants, sediments, algae
Reports to improve information and fill data gaps in the North Saskatchewan River include:
- Evaluation of Aquatic Plants and Controlling Factors in the North Saskatchewan River
- A Review of Literature on Cohesive Sediment Transport Processes, Methodological Frameworks and Management Strategies in Relation to the North Saskatchewan River
- Assessment of Sediment Quality and Sources in the North Saskatchewan River and its Tributaries
- An Assessment of Sediment Quality, Benthic Invertebrates and Epilithic Algae in the North Saskatchewan River. Based on 2007 and 2008 data. AEP, 2010