Watershed management – Partnerships

Water for Life partnerships empower Albertans to be part of water-management initiatives.


Partnerships form a key part of the Water for Life strategy. Water issues can be large or small. They can be local in nature with a direct effect on communities or they can cross provincial borders and involve national and international interests through transboundary water agreements.

Albertans want to be more engaged in decisions that impact their environment. Partnerships under the Water for Life strategy empower Albertans to become engaged in local water management.

Why have provincial partnerships?

The simple fact is government cannot do everything alone. Nor should it. In the past, the role of government was "command and control" regulatory enforcement. In many respects, it is a reactive approach to protecting the environment, based on correcting something that has gone wrong.

Partnerships help to effectively tackle the challenges of watershed management in Alberta, providing proactive approaches that help guide stewardship and prevent crisis situations. Our partners also provide an education component that helps to build awareness about positive behaviours, best practices and how the environment is an integral part of everyone’s lives.

Provincial partnerships in Alberta

The Water for Life strategy identifies 3 types of partnerships. Each focuses on participation at a different geographic scale.

  • Alberta Water Council (AWC) - the provincewide scale
  • Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) - the Alberta watershed scale
  • Watershed Stewardship Groups (WSGs) - the local scale

Although the Government of Alberta maintains the responsibility for implementing the Water for Life strategy and administers water and watershed management, it also participates as a partner on both the Alberta Water Council and the Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils. In addition, government provides staff resources to advise and provide assistance to Watershed Stewardship Groups.

How the Water for Life partnerships work together

At the provincial scale the Alberta Water Council can identify projects and initiatives that would benefit from input or collaboration from Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils and Watershed Stewardship Groups. Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils and Watershed Stewardship Groups are able to raise issues and concerns from either the watershed or local scale to the Alberta Water Council for consideration.

Alberta Water Council

Initially established in 2004 to serve an advisory function to government, the Alberta Water Council (AWC) evolved and incorporated as a not-for-profit society in 2007. Its primary task continues to be to monitor and steward the implementation of Alberta’s Water for Life strategy and to champion the achievement of the strategy’s goals.

It also advises the Alberta government, stakeholders, and the public on effective water management practices and solutions to water issues, as well as on priorities for water research. Where there is consensus, the Council may advise on government policy and legislation. However, the Government of Alberta remains accountable for the implementation of the Water for Life strategy and continues to administer water and watershed management activities throughout the province.

The AWC consists of 24 members from governments, industry and non-government organizations.

The following provincial government ministries are represented on the Council:

  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Energy
  • Environment and Protected Areas
  • Health

Project teams may be established by the Council to investigate, provide information and make recommendations on particular water issues.

Current projects in which Alberta government staff are actively participating include:

  • non-point source pollution project
  • riparian lands and conservation management project
  • water for life implementation review

Through its many project teams the AWC publishes recommendations and reports concerning the Water for Life strategy.

Watershed Stewardship Groups

Watershed stewardship groups take community-level action to safeguard our water sources. These groups are community, volunteer-based partnerships actively engaged in environmental stewardship of their watershed. They include individuals, organizations, agriculture, industry, municipalities and other forms of local government and set common goals to achieve shared outcomes. For more information, visit the Land Stewardship Centre.