Watershed Management

Breaking Camp
Karen Albert
Highway 831 
Steve Ricketts
Paddle Into the Past 
Metis Crossing
Looking East 
Kyle Schole

What is a Watershed?

Source: Paddle Alberta

A watershed is an area of land where water from rain or snow melt flows into a body of water such as a wetland, lake, stream or river.  We all live in a watershed.

Smoky Lake County resides within the North Saskatchewan River (90%)  and Beaver River (10%) watersheds. 

Sub-watersheds of Smoky Lake County, Source: Munisite 

Integrated Watershed Management Plans (IWMPs): 

Why are our Watersheds important? 

"Alberta’s watersheds are vast and are vitally important to our way of life. Everything within a watershed is connected. Changes that happen within a watershed have huge effects on everything living within it, even if those changes are hundreds of kilometres away. For instance, land pollution in the Rocky Mountains could leach into rivers and lakes, impacting drinking water supplies on the other side of the province in Lloydminster. Alberta’s watersheds also flow into our neighbors’ lands on all sides, making our actions in protecting them important on an inter-provincial, and international level." Source: Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA)


"Watershed management is the study of the relevant characteristics of a watershed aimed at the sustainable distribution of its resources and the process of creating and implementing plans, programs, and projects to sustain and enhance watershed functions that affect the plant, animal, and human communities within the watershed boundary. 

Adopting a watershed approach is founded on the basis that Alberta’s water resources must be managed within the capacity of individual watersheds and that all Albertans recognize there are limits to the available water supply. What happens on the land and water in a watershed can affect the water supply that rivers, lakes and groundwater provide. While land and water are closely linked, these resources have not historically been managed in a fully integrated manner. Focusing efforts at the watershed level provides a comprehensive understanding of local management needs, and encourages locally led management decisions." Source: Watersheds 101, Athabasca Watershed Council

Source: Lakeland Industry and Community Association (LICA)
Did you Know? The word 'Saskatchewan' is derived from the Cree word 'Kisiskatchewan' which roughly means 'swift flowing'.

Watershed Management

"Watershed management recognizes that land use practices play an important role in the overall health of the aquatic environment and that many jurisdictions, agencies and user groups within a watershed have the potential to affect water quality and quantity. Watershed management also recognizes that no single agency or authority has the capacity to take action to ensure overall health of a watershed. For this reason, watershed management employs an integrated land and water use approach that involves all user groups making recommendations to the appropriate decision-making authorities and undertaking actions that benefit Alberta’s watersheds." Source: LICA

Watershed Planning & Advisory Councils

Under the Government of Alberta’s Water for Life Strategy in 2005, eleven Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) have been established. These independent, non-profit organizations report on watershed health, and facilitate collaborative planning, education, and stewardship. 

The three main goals of the Water for Life Strategy are: 

  1. 1. Safe, secure drinking water 
  2. 2. Healthy aquatic ecosystems 
  3. 3. Reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy

One of the most important ways that we can effectively manage our water is to change the way we manage our land. Land use has many impacts on our watersheds, from encroachment of development on riparian areas and wetlands to creation of impervious surfaces that cause storm-water issues to environmentally damaging uses that leech contaminants into our groundwater. It is vitally important to combine land use management with watershed management to ensure that both our land and water are protected. 

"Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPACs) have a lot to offer municipalities. Their Watershed Management Plans provide a blueprint for watershed management that aims to be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable. Also, WPAC-based information and expertise help raise awareness of the broad watershed, as well as a host of more specific issues relating to, for example, water quality, water quantity, groundwater, wetland management, storm water management, flood and drought planning, and species at risk. For municipalities, WPACs can ultimately inform municipal decision-making concerning watershed management and planning." 

- Source: Nicol, Lorraine A. Ph.D., Nicol Christopher J. Ph.D., (2021). Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils, Their Impact on Municipal Watershed Management and Planning, University of Lethbridge


North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance (NSWA)

Alberta Water Council (AWC)

Province of Alberta