When completed the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan (NSRP) will set out a new approach for managing our lands and natural resources to achieve our province's long-term environmental, economic and social goals.

Developing the NSRP is 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 Parks 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, 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.

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 (PDF, 824 KB)

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

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 five years and reaffirms stakeholder commitment to future work.

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 Parks to manage water quality in the North Saskatchewan River.

Multi-stakeholder forums

Two regional multi-stakeholder committees advise Alberta Environment and Parks 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:

  • industry
  • municipalities
  • environmental non-government organizations
  • provincial government

Reports, studies and factsheets

Air quality implementation and assessment

The Capital Region Implementation Progress Report provides an update on the efforts to date by Alberta Environment and Parks, and stakeholders in the Edmonton region on addressing air quality concerns and identifies upcoming implementation priorities.

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 four 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.

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 three key objectives focussing on action, investigation, and engagement.

Supporting documents, such as the Capital Region Fine Particulate Matter Science Report were used in the development of the Response. The following documents provide an of the Response; explain particulate matter in the Edmonton area, and the process used to develop the Response.

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.

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 as a whole.

The following framework sets out a vision, outcomes, principles, and presents four 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 Parks 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 two 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.

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

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:

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