Starting February 1, for the first time since 2001, Alberta’s Drought Command Team will begin negotiating with major water license holders throughout the province.

The negotiations are an attempt to strike water-sharing agreements in the Red Deer River, Bow River, and Old Man River to mitigate the risk of drought.

This winter, we have been experiencing below-average snow, and rivers are at record low levels.

Multiple reservoirs remain well below capacity.

In an 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.

In a province where we heavily rely on melting snow and rain for our water, the lack of moisture has caused water shortage advisories in over 51 places in Alberta.

"Drought is something our farmers and ranchers have experienced before. Based on that experience, our irrigators and agricultural producers have done an amazing job managing their operations during tough times. I also want to be clear that Alberta producers are leaders in water conservation and environmental stewardship, and I am proud of the work they do. As always, Alberta’s government is doing everything we can to help producers impacted by drought, and our producers have always stepped up to work together to build solutions that are in the interest of the entire province," said RJ Sigurdson, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation.

The purpose of these agreements is to ensure that if a severe drought occurs in Alberta, major users will be made to use less water to help others downstream.

25,000 businesses and organizations in Alberta hold water licenses for 9.5 billion cubic meters of water, which is enough water to fill 3.8 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The Drought Command Team will prioritize negotiations with the largest water license holders in Alberta to secure significant and timely reductions in water use.

Multiple water-sharing agreements could be put in place in some areas, but at least one agreement will be developed for each of the Red Deer River, Bow River, and Oldman River basins.

Water-sharing agreements will be entered into voluntarily and are expected to be completed by March 31.

The Alberta Government is closely monitoring snowpack, rain, water, and river levels throughout the province to predict how much water will be available this year.

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