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The Living Water Policy Project
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Saskatchewan Water Policy Data


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The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority released the Saskatchewan Watershed Planning Model in 2003 with the intention of creating Source Water Protection Plans on a watershed planning model. To date, nine Source Water Protection Plans have been developed for 8 of the province's 29 watersheds and one priority aquifer area, and another 2 watersheds are in the process of developing Source Water Protection Plans.

Saskatchewan water policy photo essay

Saskatchewan water policy facts
(click any title below to reveal policy details)

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Basic Introduction
1: Central Water Legislation (Apr 07/10)
The Conservation and Development Act (2006) allows rural landowners to establish a conservation and development area facilitate the development of agricultural land while conserving water.  These areas are to facilitate infrastructure development that conserve and develop agricultural land and water resources. The Act is administered by the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority Act (2005) established the Watershed Authority and outlined the Authority's mandate to manage, control, and protect the water resources, watersheds and related lands by regulating water development and water use.

The Water Power Act (2005), administered by Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, controls the development and use of Hydropower.

The Watershed Associations Act (2006) enables two or more agencies to establish a Watershed Association to facilitate the planning and development of works to conserve and develop land and water resources on a watershed basin.

The Water Appeal Board Act (2005) establishes the Water Appeal Board and enables the board to hear appeals regarding drainage orders issued by the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.

Environmental Management and Protection Act (2007) protects the air, land, and water resources of the province through regulating and controlling potentially harmful activities and substances.  This Act also regulates drinking water systems.

Saskatchewan Water Corporation Act (2006) provides the mandate under which SaskWater operates.

Other acts that legislate activity around water include: Environmental Assessment Act (2003) and the Natural Resources Act (2008).

2: Key Ministries & Departments (Apr 07/10)
Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (SWA, n.d.) leads management of the province's water resources to ensure safe drinking water sources and reliable water supplies for economic, environmental, and social benefits for Saskatchewan people. Saskatchewan Watershed Authority manages surface and groundwater resources, owns and operates provincial dams, and directs watershed planning activities.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment is the principle regulator of municipal waterworks and all privately owned (publicly accessible) waterworks that have a flow rate of 18,000 litres or more per day.  Saskatchewan Environment will also regulate certain pipeline systems. This organization provides guidelines, regulations, and certification programs to operators of water and wastewater treatment plants.

SaskWater is the Saskatchewan Water Corporation the province's Crown water utility service provider. The company's core lines of business include potable and non-potable water supply, wastewater treatment and management, and certified operations and maintenance.

Water management decisions in Saskatchewan affect many agencies and levels of government.  The Government of Saskatchewan developed the SaskH20 (2008) to provide water information from across the province.

Other departments with water-related responsibilities:  Saskatchewan Government Affairs, Saskatchewan Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Municipal affairs.

3: Water Rights (Jun 29/10)
In Saskatchewan, the agency primarily responsible for water allocation and licenses is the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.  There are no maximum eligibility quantities.

Licenses are transferrable but must be used for stated purpose in the original license.  Licenses for both surface and groundwater are based on available water volumes and uses, including in-stream needs (de Loë, Varghese, Ferreyra, Kreutzwiser, 2007).  There is no established system of priority uses.  Allocation rights are valid from 5 to 20 years.  

Domestic users of water (including farmers) can withdraw up to 5,000 cubic metres per year without a license.  Beyond that, a license is required.  A review process is only triggered if there is potential for conflict at which point the public will be consulted.  There are currently no penalties under the act.

First Nations rights to water are not yet explicitly and legally acknowledged in any provincial or federal legislation. The 1987 Federal Water Policy (Environment Canada, 1987) acknowledges Native interests in water but this has not generally been reflected in provincial allocation decisions.

4: Data Collection/Monitoring (Apr 07/10)
The Rural Water Quality Advisory Program monitors private groundwater wells-it is voluntary and the service is provided for a cost of $100 (Saskatchewan Watershed Authoirty, 2009). The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (2008) also offers an Erosion Control Assistance Program that encourages monitoring and remediation of sites prone to erosion (CITE). The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority requires some industrial users and municipal users to record and report their water use each month.

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority and Environment Canada operate the network of hydrological stations, and the Ministry of Environment and Saskatchewan Watershed Authority monitor water quality at selected stations.  The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority operates a ground water observation well network to provide long-term data on water levels in aquifers (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, 2010).

There are no provincial or territorial programs to monitor drinking water or water resources in First Nations communities.

5: Transboundary Issues (Apr 07/10)
On October 30, 1969, the provincial governments of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, and the federal government entered into the Master Agreement on Apportionment.  This agreement pertains to eastwards flowing rivers and streams in the prairies, and states that Alberta must pass on 50% of the naturalized flow of rivers on to Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan must in turn pass on 50% of the water that flows in from Alberta, plus 50% of the water that rises within the province, on to Manitoba. So far, all provinces have been able to keep up with commitments. The signing of the agreement also reconstituted the Prairie Provinces Water Board, which was originally established in 1948.

The Prairie Water Directive (Prairie Water Watch, n.d.) is a set of policy recommendations around freshwater security developed by environmental non-governmental organizations and communities across the three Prairie Provinces. This document was created for governments and policy makers. While this is not adopted policy per se, the vision of this directive is gaining strength and momentum from the many organizations that have listed their names as supporters.

There are no agreements between any levels of government acknowledging First Nations water rights, except those delineated under land claim or self-government agreements, such as the Nisga'a Agreement.

Water Quality
1: Drinking Water Laws (Apr 07/10)
The Safe Drinking Water Strategy (2003), while not legislation, is the framework for drinking water.  In the wake of the Walkerton tragedy and the outbreak of Cryptosporidium parvum in North Battleford in 2001, the Safe Drinking Water Strategy was developed in order to strive towards a sustainable, reliable, safe, and clean supply of drinking water for all citizens of Saskatchewan. This document focuses on the human health issues associated with drinking water and stresses the need for a multi-barrier source-to-tap approach to managing drinking water.

The Water Regulations (2002) require that facilities regulated by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment supplying water intended or used for human consumption must meet stricter drinking water quality standards for turbidity, protozoa, virus, and chemicals. Prior to this legislation, Saskatchewan had only guidelines and did not have legally enforceable standards in place.

First Nations communities are located on Federal Reserve land, which falls within Federal jurisdiction. Provincial drinking water legislation does not apply to these communities.

2: Source Water Protection (Apr 07/10)
The Environmental and Management Protection Act (2002), Safe Drinking Water Strategy (2002), Saskatchewan Watershed Authority Act (2005), and the Water Management Framework (1999) all contribute to source water protection.

In April 2000, drinking water supplying areas around the Town of North Battleford became contaminated with Cryptosporidium parvum causing an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in over 5,800 people (Jameson, 2008).  Following this, in addition to the Walkerton tragedy in Ontario, Saskatchewan was motivated to ensure safe drinking water through a multi-barrier approach including source water protection plans.  The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority guides watershed and aquifer planning at the provincial level and works with local watershed advisory and technical committees to develop science-based source water protection plans. The plans themselves do not have regulatory authority but instead identify issues and recommend regulatory and program needs. Once plans have been developed, non-governmental organization groups are formed to implement them. Accountability is enhanced through the requirement for Saskatchewan Environment to submit annual State of Drinking Water Quality Reports to Cabinet (Ministry of Environment, 2008)

Source water protection policy does not address protection of First Nations water.

3: Wellfield Protection (Apr 07/10)
There is no formal wellfield protection planning. There is no major difference between ground and surface water licensing-it is up to the license holder to demonstrate that the water withdrawn to supply local users is handled in a sustainable way. Well driller certification is not required.  The driller is supposed to submit a report within 30 days; however, there are no penalties if this is not done.

4: Groundwater Permitting (Apr 07/10)
Reporting requirements for groundwater licensing is by location, source, and purpose of extraction under the Ground Water Regulation.  The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority Act (2005) requires potential licensees to advertise the project allowing for some degree of participation opportunities in the permit decision-making process.  Although, the appeal rights in permit decisions are limited, only a drainage approval may be appealed to the Water Appeal Board while an appeal of approval or license must be made to the courts.

There is currently no public database of permit information for the approximately 3,600 groundwater permits (Bakker, 2006).

Provincial permitting processes do not apply to Federal lands such as First Nations reserves and communities.

5: Storm/Waste Water Management (Apr 07/10)
Individual municipalities manage storm water. The Government of Saskatchewan, Ministry for the Environment has released: Storm Water Guidelines (2006) for municipalities, as well as Guidelines for Sewage Works Design (2008). Note that these are guidelines only and are not regulations. Wastewater operators require certification to operate wastewater treatment systems as set out in the Saskatchewan Water and Waste Water Works Operator Certification Standards (2002).

Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities.

6: Ecosystem Quality Needs (Apr 07/10)
Ecosystem quality needs are not explicitly considered; however, agricultural run-off and nutrient loading is of particular concern in Saskatchewan waters, as well as excess erosion from unsustainable farming practices.  In terms of particular species, Bigmouth Buffalo and Lake Sturgeon are at risk, both of which require certain minimum in-stream flow needs to minimize turbidity in the water. Lake Sturgeon is listed as "endangered" on the Species at Risk registry while Bigmouth Buffalo is listed as "Special Concern." (Government of Saskatchewan, 2007)

Water Quantity
1: Water Conservation Strategy (Apr 07/10)
The Government of Saskatchewan (2006), Saskatchewan Water Conservation Plan in 2006. It is a plan focused on careful management, efficient use, and strong stewardship of water resources. This plan recognizes both the ecological and commercial value of water conservation.

In 2009, the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority budget included $11 million over 4 years towards water conservation, and $3.3 million of this has been put towards the Provincial Low-flush Toilet Replacement Rebate Program (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, 2009-2010)

Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities.

Learn more about Saskatchewan conservation initiatives and requirements from the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

2: Ecosystem Quantity Needs (Apr 07/10)
Concerning water quality, the Saskatchewan Fisheries Act (1994) addresses the discharges of contaminants to water. The Environmental Management Protection Act (2002) addresses shoreline and riparian alteration permits and potential impacts on aquatic habitat.

There is no legislation addressing aquatic ecosystem needs in terms of water quantity. The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans have recently begun monitoring in-stream flow needs beneath the Nipawin and Campbell Dams to determine ecological effects from control structures (W. Dybvig, personal communication, November 15th, 2009).

3: Interbasin Transfers (Apr 07/10)
Sections 55 and 56 of the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority Act (2005) controls interbasin transfers and exports.  The legislation prohibits the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority from licensing or approval to construct works that would create an inter-basin transfer except between portions of watersheds in Saskatchewan and basin transfers within Saskatchewan.  Currently water is diverted from the South Saskatchewan basin at Lake Diefenbaker into the Qu'Appelle watershed to supply the cities of Regina, Saskatoon and other users in the Qu'Appelle Watershed.

Consideration is given to requests for transfer of water beyond Saskatchewan for use in Canada, where use is for domestic or municipal purposes.  The manner of conveyance will be subject to existing provincial and federal legislation. Inter-basin transfers beyond Canadian borders by pipeline, canal, or natural watercourses are prohibited.

Ground or surface water supplies can be considered for export beyond Canadian borders, subject to all provincial and federal laws, where it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that the water supply exists in quantities surplus to existing and anticipated future uses, including full consideration of environmental impacts provided that the:

Water is shipped in container volumes equal to or less than 10 litres;
water is in a final processed condition ready for retail sale as a primarily water beverage; and, total quantity of all containerized water authorized for annual export at any one time shall be less than 20,000 cubic decametres. (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, n.d., p. 1)

4: Climate Change Linkage (Apr 07/10)
Saskatchewan Watershed Authority has recently begun a $6.5 to 7 million study on how climate change will affect water flows and quality in both surface and groundwater in the province (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, 2009-2010).  Part of this study focuses on modeling in-stream flow needs, identifying key species and exploring the flow, water quality, and habitat required to sustain ecosystems. Deliverables are expected every year for 3 to 4 years. The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is working with Saskatchewan Ministry for the Environment and Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, personal communication, November 20th, 2009).

References (Apr 28/10)

Document Disclaimer:

Every effort has been made to ensure complete accuracy of the content of this briefing note but this document is only a summary and should not be considered legal or planning advice.  Please refer to the relevant legislation and regulations for further information.

References

Bakker, K. (2006). Eau Canada - The Future of Canada's Water. Vancouver, BC: UBC   Press.

Conservation and Development Act, R.S.S. 1978, c. C-27

W. Dybvig, personal communication, November 15th, 2009

Environmental Assessment Act, S.S. 1979-80, c. E-10.1

Environment Canada. (1969). Master Agreement on Apportionment. Retrieved March 29, 2010 fromhttp://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/water_info/transboundary/agreements.html#b

Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2002, S.S. 2002, c. E-10.21

Government of Saskatchewan. (1999). Water Management Framework. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from,http://www.gov.sk.ca/news?newsId=42b6b56e-334c-45c3-99c5-b0e16ee9bb20

Government of Saskatchewan. (2002). Saskatchewan Water and Waste Water Works Operator Certification Standards. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from http://www.environment.gov.sk.ca/adx/aspx/adxGetMedia.aspx?DocID=766,75            253,94,88,Documents&MediaID=331&Filename=Sask.+Water+and+Wastewate            +Works+Operator+Certification+Standards.pdf&l=English

Government of Saskatchewan. (2003). Safe Drinking Water Strategy. Retrieved March, 29, 2010 from www.saskh2o.ca/pdf/ltsdws_report2003.pdf

Government of Saskatchewan. (2006). Storm Water Guidelines. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from http://www.saskh2o.ca/DWBinder/EPB322StormwaterGuidelines.pdf

Government of Saskatchewan. (2006). Saskatchewan Water Conservation Plan Retrieved March, 29, 2010 from http://www.swa.ca/WaterConservation/Documents/WaterConservationPlan11x17.pdf

Government of Saskatchewan. (2007). Species at Risk.  Retrieved March 29, 2010 from  http://www.environment.gov.sk.ca/Default.aspx?DN=5297a6b8-fa52-4af8-8dbf51196e37fc6a

Government of Saskatchewan. (2008). Guidelines for Sewage Works Design. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from            http://www.saskh2o.ca/DWBinder/EPB203GuidelinesSewageWorksDesign.pdf

Jameson, P., Hung, YT., Kuo, C., Bosela, P.  (2008). Cryptosporidium Outbreak (Water Treatment Failure): North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Spring 2001 J. Perf. Constr. Fac. / Volume 22 / Issue 5 / TECHNICAL PAPERS

Ministry of Environment. (2008). Drinking Water Annual Report. Retrieved March 29, 2010, from            http://www.finance.gov.sk.ca/annreport/200809DrinkingWaterAnnualReport.pdf

Natural Resources Act, S.S. 1993, c. N-3.1

Prairie Water Watch. (2009). Prairie Water Directive.  Retrieved March 29, 2010, from http://www.prairiewaterwatch.ca//~uploads/pages/image/PrairieWaterDirectiveWeb(1).pdf              
SaskH20. (2008). About us. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from, www.SaskH20.ca

Fisheries Act (Saskatchewan), 1994, S.S. 1994, c. F-16.1

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority Act, 2005, S.S. 2005, c. S-35.03

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (n.d.) About us. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from http://www.swa.ca/AboutUs/Documents/Waterexport.pdf

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority. (2008). Erosion Control Assistance. Retrieved March 29, 2010, from http://www.swa.ca/Publications/Documents/PR-205.pdf

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority. (2009). Rural Water Quality Advisory Program. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from, http://www.swa.ca/Publications/Documents/PR200.pdf

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, personal communication, November 20th, 2009

Saskatchewan Watershed Authority. (2010). Website. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from, http://www.swa.ca

Saskatchewan Water Corporation Act, S.S. 2002, c. S-35.01

Water Appeal Board Act, S.S. 1983-84, c. W-4.01

Watershed Associations Act, R.S.S. 1978, c. W-11

Water Power Act, R.S.S. 1978, c. W-6

Water Regulations, 2002, R.R.S. c. E-10.21 Reg. 1, (Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2002)

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