A July 10th report from the Alberta Auditor General didn't look too good for the provincial government.

The report found that the Provincial Government lacks effective processes to manage surface water allocation use and that public reporting on surface water and the outcomes of surface water management was also lacking.

This is in light of Alberta's water resources being under increasing pressure due to population growth, resource development, changes in land use, and climate change.

Through the audit, they found that the Department of Environment and Protected Areas has no water conservation objectives in most basins, they don't know if the existing water conservation objectives are working, they lack robust processes to monitor water pressures, assess risks, and decide when water conservation objectives are needed, and have ineffective processes to approve licenses and monitor compliance.

"Water plays a key role in Alberta’s economy, supporting major sectors such as agriculture and energy. It is crucial for sustaining economic growth and maintaining a high standard of living for both present and future generations," explained Auditor General Doug Wylie in a media release from July 10th.

Following the audit, the Auditor General made three recommendations for the Department of Environment and Protected Areas to establish a process to identify when to develop, assess, and update the water conservation objectives, as well as improve licensing and compliance monitoring processes, and reporting to the public relevant and reliable information on managing surface water.

Alberta has seven major river basins, with the north-flowing river basins containing the majority of the province's water resources.

Despite this, the majority of Alberta's population lives in the Southern part of the province.

In fact, while the South Saskatchewan River Basin hosts 37 per cent of Alberta's population and accounts for 68 per cent of the province's allocated water, the basin only contains 13 per cent of Alberta's surface water.

According to the audit report, there are currently five water management plans that cover the Lesser Slave Lake and River sub-basin, Wapiti River sub-basin, Cold Lake-Beaver River sub-basin, Battle River sub-basin, and the South Saskatchewan River Basin.

Four of those plans include water conservation objectives, but only those for the South Saskatchewan River Basin and the Beaver River Basin have been implemented.

The report also brought into question whether or not the implemented water conservation objectives are effective.

"In the Cold Lake-Beaver River sub-basin, objectives have not been evaluated since their implementation 18 years ago," the report reads. "Similarly, despite reviews conducted for the South Saskatchewan River Basin, we have not seen a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of its water conservation objectives."

The report adds that failing to proactively identify the need for conserving water objectives, or evaluating and updating existing ones, increases the risk for water shortages, which could lead to the inability to meet future water needs for Albertans.

In the report, the Auditor General found some issues with the water licenses and how they are being monitored.

Some of the issues they found were that department reviewers often didn't correctly document key assessments and decisions made during the license approval process.

That includes how the license applicants complied with the legislative and internal requirements.

There was also a lack of evidence to show that the department has acted to assess and resolve any non-compliance before the license is approved.

"Examples include approving applications despite licensees’ failing to report water usage or exceeding allocation limits. One transfer was approved although the licensee diverted three times their allocated volume and operated outside permitted seasons in the past three years. This raises doubts about whether the mandated compliance check was conducted and the rationale for approving the transfer," read the report.

On top of some other issues that were flagged, the report found that there was also a lack of evidence that water availability assessments were done for most new license applications.

Instead, vague justifications were often provided, such as "given the location of the project, there should be sufficient water," with no supporting evidence provided.

"Alberta could face more severe and frequent droughts," said Wylie in the release. "Water conservation helps the government manage water allocation and control usage, especially during droughts and shortages. Effective licensing and monitoring ensure proper water use and prevent abuse."

To read the full report, click here.