Part of Shorelands

Shorelands – Overview

The province manages the shorelands and sensitive nearshore areas next to permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water in Alberta.


Shorelands refer to the beds and shores of all Alberta’s permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water, including:

  • lakes
  • rivers
  • streams
  • wetlands

Nearshore area

Lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands cover approximately 2.5% of Alberta’s landscape. Adjoining each water body are sensitive regions of land called the nearshore area. This area is broken down into three distinct management zones.

Littoral zone

  • shallow submerged lands within a body of water
  • sunlight can penetrate
  • very biologically diverse

Shore zone

  • the area between the water edge and the bank (i.e. the ordinary high water mark)
  • forms the shores of the water body

Riparian zone

  • vegetated area between the shore zone and the uplands
  • directly influenced by the water body

Managing Shorelands

Public lands

The province owns and manages:

  • beds and shores of permanent and naturally occurring bodies of water
  • riparian areas where the adjoining land is owned by the province, such as:
    • forested regions of Alberta
    • leased public lands in the settled area

Private lands

Private lands often border provincial water bodies. To manage sensitive provincial shorelands and riparian areas on private land, public land managers work co-operatively with:

  • landowners
  • municipalities
  • other resource management agencies

Shared Stewardship

Activities that occur in nearshore areas of water bodies– vegetation changes, chemical application, septic systems – trickle down and affect lake, river, stream and wetland environments.

Both private land owners and the Crown share a responsibility for maintaining the health of shorelands and adjacent riparian zones in order to keep stream, lake and wetland ecosystems healthy.