Alberta Water Resources, Policies, Legislation and Goals: The Quest to Awaken "Sleeper Rights"

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Water is arguably the most critical natural resource to Alberta’s future. The quantity and quality of water will shape the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of Alberta’s future. The quality of life in Alberta will depend on our ability to allocate this finite resource in both an efficient and environmentally responsible manner. The issue addressed in this research is how Alberta’s current water policies manage “sleeper rights” and why these policies need to be updated. Sleeper rights describe water licenses that are allocated to a water user but are not fully utilized. This allocated but under-utilized water is important because it helps Alberta’s major watersheds to meet its instream flow needs (IFNs). IFNs refer to the amount of water that aquatic ecosystems require to provide Albertans with safe and secure drinking water; healthy aquatic ecosystems; and reliable quality water supplies. By the end of 2005, the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) had allocated approximately 9.5 billion cubic metres of water throughout Alberta. By the end of 2010, this had increased to 9.9 billion cubic metres. The three sectors representing the highest water demands and allocations in Alberta are the agricultural sector (44.3%), commercial sector (29.5%), and municipal/ domestic sector (11.3%). However, not all of these allocations are fully utilized. By some estimates, as much as 45 percent of water allocated under license in Alberta remains unused.
Aseniero, Faye Ann. (2014). Alberta Water Resources, Policies, Legislation and Goals: The Quest to Awaken "Sleeper Rights" ( Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from