The last three years have brought droughts and water shortages to various parts of Alberta, including most of southern Alberta last summer. Compounding this situation, El Niño is producing a warm and dry winter across Canada and more than 70 per cent of the country is experiencing drought conditions.

Alberta relies on melting snow and rain for most of its water. This winter, snowfall is well below average, many rivers are at or near record lows and multiple reservoirs remain well below capacity. There is a high risk that drought conditions could worsen this year, and WaterSMART will help Alberta’s government take action to be fully prepared. 


The Oldman River Reservoir’s low water levels, photographed from the Oldman Dam Provincial Recreation Area. As of Jan. 15, reservoir storage sat at 28 per cent. Normal storage at this time of year is 62 to 79 per cent.

“We are taking action to make sure Alberta is fully prepared to navigate drought in 2024. The work we are announcing will help the province conduct advanced drought modelling and explore innovative ways to maximize Alberta’s water supply. This is all a key part of our efforts to continue our work to help conserve and manage water now and be prepared for uncertain conditions in the future.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Environment and Protected Areas

WaterSMART has unique and proven expertise in watershed management, including working in the South Saskatchewan River Basin. Alberta’s government is closely monitoring snowpack, rainfall, river levels and water use throughout the province to develop early warning capacity and understand how much water will be available this year.

Using this data, WaterSMART will help the province conduct advanced modelling and explore ways to make the best use of Alberta’s water. In the coming months, it will model realistic river flow scenarios that Alberta may experience.

“People, industry, agriculture and the environment all depend on water for survival. This project will help ensure effective water management practices are in place by bringing together the largest water users to collaboratively determine the best solutions for managing through uncertain water conditions this year.”  

Kim Sturgess, CEO, WaterSMART Solutions

Alberta’s government is taking action on drought, including:

  • Standing up a drought command team.
  • Developing a 2024 drought emergency plan.
  • Developing a drought advisory committee.
  • Meeting with communities, farmers, businesses and others to prepare for the potential of severe drought conditions, many of which have already taken action to implement conservation measures and adapt to reduced water levels.

More information on these initiatives and others will be announced in the coming weeks. Alberta’s government will keep working with municipalities, water users, farmers and industry across the province this winter to help ensure everyone is well-prepared for the possibility of a severe drought in 2024.

Quick facts

  • There are currently 51 water shortage advisories in place in Alberta.
  • According to the most recent assessment by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 70 per cent of Canada was classified as abnormally dry or in moderate to exceptional drought, including 81 per cent of the country’s agricultural landscape.
  • WaterSMART is a company that has extensive experience with water-related modelling within an Alberta context. It is known to have expert knowledge of the South Saskatchewan River Operation Model that will be used for flow modelling.
  • The total value of the contract is approximately $350,000.

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