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Alberta Water Council A provincial advisory body, including sector representatives from industry, non-government organizations (NGOs), the Government of Alberta and Provincial Authorities, and other governments, established as part of the Water for Life strategy to provide advice to the Government of Alberta regarding water issues.
Algae Simple single-celled (phytoplankton), colonial, or multi-celled, mostly aquatic plants, containing chlorophyll and lacking roots, stems and leaves. Aquatic algae are microscopic plants that grow in sunlit water that contains phosphates, nitrates, and other nutrients. Algae is either suspended in water (plankton) or attached to rocks and other substrates (periphyton). Their abundance, as measured by the amount of chlorophyll a (green pigment) in an open water sample, is commonly used to classify the trophic status of a lake. Algae are an essential part of the lake ecosystem and provides the food base for most lake organisms, including fish.
Algal bloom A heavy growth of algae in and on a body of water that is often triggered by environmental conditions such as high nitrate and phosphate concentrations. The decay of algal blooms may reduce dissolved oxygen levels.
Aquatic ecosystem An aquatic area where living and non-living elements of the environment interact. This includes the physical, chemical, and biological processes and characteristics of rivers, lakes, and wetlands and the plants and animals associated with them.
Aquatic macrophyte Large (in contrast to microscopic) plants that live completely or partially in water.
Aquatic species The plants and animals living in, or associated with, water bodies, wetlands, and riparian areas.
Aquifer An underground water-bearing formation that is capable of yielding water. Aquifers have specific rates of discharge and recharge. As a result, if groundwater is withdrawn faster than it can be recharged, the underground aquifer cannot sustain itself.
Bacteria A diverse group of microorganisms that occur naturally in aquatic environments. Bacteria that occur naturally in surface water generally are not harmful to humans, but pathogenic bacteria can be introduced into surface waters from wastewater, particularly from municipal sewage effluents.
Baseline data An initial set of observations or measurements used for comparison; a starting point.
Bog A wetland characterized by peat deposits, acidic water, and extensive surface mats of sphagnum moss. Bogs receive their water from precipitation rather than from runoff, groundwater, or streams, which decreases the availability of nutrients needed for plant growth.
Cistern A tank for storing water or other liquids, usually placed above the ground.
Code of practice A document governing an activity or a portion of an activity. One example is the Code of Practice for Pipelines and Telecommunication Lines Crossing A Water Body.
Coliform bacteria Micro-organisms that typically inhabit the intestines of warm-blooded animals. Drinking water quality assessments commonly include tests for coliform bacteria to determine if water has been polluted by human or animal waste.
Concentration The amount of a substance in a given volume of water. For most substances, the concentration is expressed as milligrams per litre (mg/L), which is the same as parts per million (ppm). Technology now exists that can measure substances at the parts per trillion or quadrillion level.

1. The planning, management, and implementation of an activity with the objective of protecting the essential physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the environment against degradation.

2. The process of managing biological resources (e.g., timber, fish) to ensure replacement by re-growth or reproduction of the part harvested before another harvest occurs. A balance between economic growth and environmental and natural resource protection.

Contaminant A substance that, in a sufficient concentration, will render water, land, fish, or other things unusable or harmful.
Cumulative effects The combined effects on the aquatic environment or human developments arising from the combined environmental impacts of several individual projects.
Dam A barrier constructed on a water body for storage, control, or diversion purposes. A dam may be constructed across a natural watercourse or on the periphery of a reservoir. Natural barriers formed by ice, landslides, or earthquakes are excluded.
Discharge Refers to the outflow, and is used as a measure of the rate at which a volume of water passes a given point. Therefore, the use of this term is not restricted as to course or location, and it can be used to describe the flow of water from a pipe or a drainage basin.
Disposal well A deep well used for the disposal of liquid wastes.
Disinfection A process that has as its objective destroying or inactivating pathogenic micro-organisms in water.
Dissolved oxygen A measurement of the amount of oxygen available to aquatic organisms. Temperature, salinity, organic matter, biochemical oxygen demand, and chemical oxygen demand affect dissolved oxygen solubility in water.
Diversion of water 1. The impoundment, storage, consumption, taking or removal of water for any purpose. This does not include removal for the sole purpose of removing an ice jam, drainage, flood control, erosion control or channel realignment.
2. The transfer of water from a stream, lake, aquifer, or other source of water by a canal, pipe, well, or other conduit to another watercourse or to the land, as in the case of an irrigation system. Also, a turning aside or alteration of the natural course of a flow of water, normally considered physically to leave the natural channel.
Drinking water Water that has been treated to provincial standards and is fit for human consumption.
Drought Periods of less than average precipitation over a certain period of time. Drought is naturally occurring and can cause imbalances in the hydrologic system.
Ecosystem A community of interdependent organisms together with the environment they inhabit and with which they interact.

1. The liquid waste of municipalities, industries, or agricultural operations. Usually the term refers to a treated liquid released from a wastewater treatment process.
2. The discharge from any on-site sewage treatment component.

Environment The components of the earth, including air, land, and water, all layers of the atmosphere, organic and inorganic matter, living organisms, and their interacting natural systems.
Erosion The natural breakdown and movement of soil and rock by water, wind, or ice. The process may be accelerated by human activities.
Evapotranspiration The combination of evaporation from the surface of soils and vegetation, plus the transpiration of water through plant leaves and vegetation.
Fen A wetland characterized by slow internal drainage from groundwater movement and seepage from upslope sources. Fens are characterized by peat accumulation, but due to the seepage of nutrient-rich water, fens are typically less acidic and more nutrient-rich than bogs.
Fish habitat Spawning grounds and nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.
Fishery An area of water inhabited by fish.
Flood An overflow of water onto lands that are used or usable by humans and not normally covered by water. Floods have two essential characteristics: it is temporary; and the land is adjacent to and inundated by overflow from a river, stream, lake, or ocean.
Groundwater All water under the surface of the ground whether in liquid or solid state. It originates from rainfall or snowmelt that penetrates the layer of soil just below the surface. For groundwater to be a recoverable resource, it must exist in an aquifer. Groundwater can be found in practically every area of the province, but aquifer depths, yields, and water quality vary.
Groundwater recharge Inflow of water to a groundwater reservoir (zone of saturation) from the surface. Infiltration of precipitation and its movement to the water table is one form of natural recharge. Also, the volume of water added by this process.
Guideline A specific performance measure that is not legally binding unless designated in legislation. It is a guide or indication of a future course of action. It describes how something will be accomplished. It may contain numerical performance measures and may deal with multiple uses of water.
Habitat The natural home of a living organism. The three components of wildlife habitat are food, water, shelter.
Headwaters The source and upper tributaries of a stream or river.
Household purposes Water used for human consumption, sanitation, fire prevention, and watering animals, gardens, lawns and trees.
Hydrologic cycle The process by which water evaporates from oceans and other bodies of water, accumulates as water vapor in clouds, and returns to oceans and other bodies of water as rain and snow or as runoff from this precipitation or groundwater.
Indicator A direct or indirect measurement of some valued component or quality in a system, including an ecosystem or organization. For example, an indicator can be used to measure the current health of the watershed or to measure progress toward meeting an organizational goal.
Instream flow needs (ifn) The scientifically determined amount of water, flow rate, or water level that is required in a river or other body of water to sustain a healthy aquatic environment or to meet human needs such as recreation, navigation, waste assimilation, or aesthetics. An in-stream flow need is not necessarily the same as the natural flow.
Intake Any structure on the upstream face of a dam or within a reservoir created for directing water into a confined conduit, tunnel, canal, or pipeline.
Irrigation The controlled application of water for agricultural purposes through man-made systems to supply water requirements not satisfied by rainfall.
Legislation Laws such as Acts and Regulations that are established by an elected official. (G&G glossary)
Mainstem 1. The primary channel of a river.
2. The primary river in a drainage basin.
Marsh A water body covered by water for at least part of the year and characterized by aquatic and grass-like vegetation, especially without peat-like accumulation.
Non-point-source pollutant Contaminants that enter a water body from diffuse or undefined sources and are usually carried by runoff. Examples of non-point sources include agricultural land, coal mines, construction sites, roads, and urban areas. Because non-point sources are diffuse, they are often difficult to identify or locate precisely, and are therefore difficult to control.
Nutrient An element essential for plant or animal growth. Major plant nutrients include nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, oxygen, sulphur, and potassium.
Partnership A relationship in which individuals or organizations share resources and responsibility to achieve a common objective, as well as any resulting rewards or recognition. It often includes a formal contract, new resources and shared risks and rewards. The structure includes a central body of decision-makers whose roles are defined. The links are formalized. Communication is frequent, the leadership is autonomous and the focus is on specific issues. Partnerships are a form of collaboration.
Peatland Permanent wetlands characterized by a bed made of highly organic soil (ยป50% combustible) composed of partially decayed plant material.
Pesticide Any chemical compound used to control unwanted species that attack crops, animals, or people. This diverse group of chemicals includes herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.
pH A measure of the intensity of the acid or base chemistry of the water. A pH of 7 is neutral, while below 7 is acidic and above 7 is basic. pH in surface water is regulated by the geology and geochemistry of an area and is affected by biological activity. The distribution of aquatic organisms and the toxicity of some common pollutants are strongly affected by pH.
Point-source pollution Policy 1. A governing principle, plan, or consistent course of action developed to meet recognized needs and to achieve specific measurable outcomes. Policies are normally broad, conceptual documents that outline approaches and/or considerations to be taken into account by decision makers. Policies do not act as constraints, but provide information. 2. A statement of intent that is not legally binding. It sets direction and expectations for activities.
Pollutant A contaminant in a concentration or amount that adversely alters the physical, chemical, or biological properties of the natural environment.
Public and stakeholder Involvement The process used by government to obtain advice or recommendations from a community and engage them in decision-making. Public and stakeholder involvement is an umbrella term that includes a range of interactive approaches including information and education, consultation, collaboration, partnerships and delegated authority.
Regulation Created under authority granted by a law, a regulation presents more specific requirements than the legislation itself.
Reservoir A man-made lake that collects and stores water for future use. During periods of low river flow, reservoirs can release additional flow if water is available.
Riparian Pertaining to the banks of a river, stream, waterway, or other, typically, flowing body of water as well as to plant and animal communities along such bodies of water.
Riparian area The area of water-loving vegetation beside a stream, river, lake, or pond. Riparian areas are critical in reducing the negative effects of various land-uses on adjacent waters.
Riparian health assessment An educational tool used by the Cows and Fish Program. It involves using visual observation to interpret the health of a riparian area and making comparisons over time.
River basin An area of land drained by a river and its associated streams or tributaries. Alberta's Water Act identifies seven Major River Basins within the province: (1) Peace/Slave River Basin, (2) Athabasca River Basin, (3) North Saskatchewan River Basin, (4) South Saskatchewan River Basin, (5) Milk River Basin, (6) Beaver River Basin, and (7) Hay River Basin.
Runoff Water that moves across (or through) soils on the land during snowmelt or rainstorms.
Saline Groundwater Groundwater that has more than 4,000 mg/L of total dissolved solids.
Sediment Eroded soil, rock and plant debris, transported and deposited by water.
Sedimentation The process of material settling out of water.
Seepage The flow or movement of water through a dam, its foundation, or abutments.
Septic system A combination of underground pipe(s) and holding tank(s) which are used to hold, decompose, and clean wastewater for subsurface disposal.
Settling pond An open lagoon into which wastewater contaminated with solid pollutants is placed and allowed to stand. The solid pollutants suspended in the water sink to the bottom of the lagoon and the liquid is allowed to overflow out of the enclosure.
Sewer Any system of pipes, drains, pumping works, equipment, structures, and other things used for the collection, transportation or disposal of wastewater, but does not include any building drain, plumbing, or building sewer.
Shallow open water Small bodies of standing water less than 2m deep that act as transitional areas between lakes and marshes. Shallow open water does not contain emergent aquatic vegetation like cattails and reeds, but may support floating vegetation like lily pads.
Shore The edge of a body of water and includes the land adjacent to a body of water that has been covered so long by water as to wrest it from vegetation or as to mark a distinct character on the vegetation where it extends into the water or on the soil itself.
Source water Raw/untreated water received for treatment to provide potable water to municipal, industrial or private users. Sources may include high quality groundwater, groundwater under the influence of surface water and surface water from lake, stream, river or watercourse.
Stakeholder An individual, organization, or government with a direct interest in a particular process or outcome.
Standard A definite rule established by authority. They are legally enforceable numerical limits or narrative statements found in a regulation, statute, contract, or other legally binding document, which have been adopted from a criterion or objective. Environmental standards often take the form of prescribed numerical values that must be met.
State of the Watershed Report A document that identifies the current condition of a watershed including the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of its surface and groundwater and the pressures acting on it.
Stewardship A principle or approach whereby citizens, industry, communities, and government work together as stewards of the province's natural resources and environment. In general terms, stewardship means managing one's life, property, resources, and environment with regard for the rights or interests of others. This can apply to a person, company, community, government or group. Stewardship is an ethic and a value that results from public education and partnerships. It is people-focused in the sense that it relies on the desire and ability of people to make good decisions on their own accord that help resources and environmental outcomes.
Strategy A perspective, position, or plan developed and undertaken to achieve goals. It is the bridge between policy and concrete actions that outlines how a policy will be implemented to achieve its goals.
Sub-basin Part of a river basin drained by a tributary or with significantly different characteristics than the other areas of the basin.
Sub-watershed A smaller watershed that is a piece of a much larger watershed.
Surface water Water bodies such as lakes, ponds, wetlands, rivers, and streams, as well as groundwater with a direct and immediate hydrological connection to surface water (for example, water in a well beside a river).
Suspended solids Materials, such as fine particles of soil, that neither dissolve nor settle out of water, but instead are held or carried along in the water.
Sustainability The balancing of opportunities for growth with the need to protect the environment. It reflects a vision of a vibrant economy and a healthy environment. Regarding renewable resources (e.g.: water, timber, fish, and wildlife), sustainability involves managing renewable natural resources so that their status, condition, or use is maintained over time. In this context, the use of a renewable resource, or impacts on it from other human activities, should not exceed its capacity to maintain itself through re-growth, reproduction, and management practices. Regarding non-renewable resources (e.g., coal, oil, gas, and minerals), sustainability involves the development of resources in a responsible manner. This means protecting the environment during the construction and operation phases and ultimately reclaiming the land disturbed by development. In this context, non-renewable resource development is a temporary land use.
Threshold The value of an indicator that reflects a problem condition.
Total dissolved solids (TDS) 1. A measure of the concentration of dissolved matter in water. Total Dissolved Solids measurements are often used to estimate a water body's salinity, which may affect the distribution of aquatic organisms.
2. Calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, sulfate, chloride, and silica are typical dissolved solids.
Total suspended solids (TSS) A measurement of the quantity of matter suspended, but not dissolved, in a unit of water. Suspended solids include a wide variety of materials such as silt, decaying plant matter, industrial wastes, and sewage.
Traditional agricultural registration Provides the authority for diverting and using groundwater to an agricultural landowner for the purpose of raising animals or applying pesticides to crops, as part of a farm unit. A registration of a diversion of water may not exceed 6250 cubic metres of water per year or the maximum amount specified in an applicable approved water management plan. The landowner must prove first diversion of such water occurred prior to January 1, 1999.
Treated wastewater Effluent/discharge from a wastewater treatment plant that meets the quality outlined in the wastewater treatment plant approval prior to discharge to the receiving environment or the quality specified for reuse.
Turbidity The cloudiness of water. It is determined by the presence of suspended matter such as clay, silt, organic matter, and living organisms. High turbidity may reduce light transmission, and therefore reduce photosynthesis of aquatic plants.
Upland An area of dry land surrounding or upstream of a waterbody.
Waste Any solid or liquid material, product, or combination of them that is intended to be treated or disposed of or that is intended to be stored and then treated or disposed. This does not include recyclables.
Wastewater A combination of liquid and water-carried pollutants from homes, businesses, industries, or farms; a mixture of water and dissolved or suspended solids.
Wastewater treatment Any of the mechanical or chemical processes used to modify the quality of waste water in order to make it more compatible or acceptable to humans and their environment.
Wastewater treatment plant A system of sewers, valves, fittings, pumping stations, and accessories that is used to collect wastewater and transfer it to a wastewater treatment plant.
Water Act A piece of provincial legislation in Alberta used to protect the quality of water and manage its distribution. The Water Act regulates all developments and activities that might affect rivers, lakes, or groundwater.
Water allocation The permitted volume, rate, and timing of a diversion of water outlined in a water license. When water is permitted to be redirected for a use other than for domestic purposes, it is referred to as an allocation. Agricultural, industrial, and municipal water users must apply to AENV for a license to use a set allocation of water.
Water body Any location where water flows or is present, regardless of whether or not the flow or the presence of water is continuous, intermittent, or occurs only during a flood. This includes, but is not limited to, wetlands and aquifers.
Water conservation Any beneficial reduction in water use, loss, or waste. Water management practices that improve the use of water resources to benefit people or the environment.
Water for Life The Government of Alberta's water management approach, outlining a comprehensive set of strategies and actions that will ensure Albertans have safe, secure drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems, and a reliable, quality water supply for a sustainable economy.
Water license A water license provides the authority for diverting and using surface water or groundwater. The license identifies the water source, the location of the diversion site, an amount of water to be diverted and used from that source, the priority of the "water right" established by the license, and the conditions under which the diversion and use must take place.
Water management The protection and conservation of water and aquatic ecosystems, including their associated riparian area. In Alberta, several agencies have a mandate in this area. Alberta Environment is responsible for water quality, quantity monitoring, and water allocations. Under the Water Act, a director can set Water Conservation Objectives to protect minimum flow and aquatic ecosystem health. Stakeholders can recommend Water Conservation Objectives to a director via a Water Management Plan or an Approved Water Management Plan. Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) manages Crown lands, including the bed and shores of all water bodies. SRD, through its Fish and Wildlife Division, is also responsible for fisheries and wildlife management. In addition, the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans upholds a no-net-loss policy in its mandate to protect fisheries habitat under the Federal Fisheries Act.
Management Plan
A document developed under the Water Act that provides broad guidance regarding water conservation and management, sets clear and strategic directions regarding how water should be managed, or results in specified actions. Alberta's Framework for Water Management Planning outlines the process for water management planning and the components required for water management plans. The process applies to all water bodies in Alberta, including streams, rivers, lakes, aquifers, and wetlands. The plans may be considered by a director when making license and approval decisions.
Water quality The chemical, microbiological, and physical characteristics of water.
Water quality guidelines The allowable contaminant concentration in water. Guidelines are used to define water quality according to the use of the water source. For example, water quality guidelines are developed for drinking water, agricultural, industrial, and recreational water use and for the protection of aquatic life.
Water quantity The volume or amount of water.
Water table The top of the saturated zone in the ground, where water fills the spaces in the soil and rock.
Water well An opening in the ground, whether drilled or altered from its natural state, that is used for the production of groundwater, obtaining data on groundwater, or recharging an underground formation from which groundwater can be recovered. By definition in the provincial Water Act, a water well also includes any related equipment, buildings, and structures.
Watercourse crossing A permanent or temporary crossing and any associated permanent or temporary structures that are or will be constructed to provide access over or through a waterbody.
Watershed The area of land that catches precipitation and drains into a larger body of water such as a marsh, stream, river, or lake. A watershed is often made up of a number of sub-watersheds that contribute to its overall drainage.
Watershed management The protection and conservation of water and aquatic ecosystems, including their associated riparian area. Because land use activities on the uplands of a watershed can affect ground and surface water quality and quantity, a broader, more comprehensive approach to planning is often required. A Watershed Management Plan may look at water quantity, water quality, aquatic ecosystems, riparian area, as well as a variety of land use issues as they impact water. Watershed management plans require water and land use managers to work together to ensure healthy watersheds.
Watershed management plan A comprehensive document that addresses many issues in a watershed including water quantity, water quality, point and non-point-source pollution, and source water protection. It may or may not include a Water Management Plan. It may also examine ways to better integrate land and resource management within a watershed.
Watershed management planning A comprehensive, multi-resource planning process involving all stakeholders within the watershed, who, together as a group, cooperatively work toward identifying the watershed's resource issues and concerns, and develop and implement a watershed plan with solutions that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils Collaborative, independent, volunteer organizations with representation from all key partners within the watershed. Their mandate is to engage governments, stakeholders, other partnerships, and the public in watershed assessment and watershed management planning, while considering the existing land and resource management planning processes and decision-making authorities.
Watershed Stewardship Group Community-based groups made up of volunteer citizens, often supported by local businesses and industries, who have taken the initiative to protect their local creek, stream, stretch of river, or lake. These proactive groups develop on-the-ground solutions to ensure the protection of their specific watersheds.
Waterworks system A scheme providing potable water to a city, town, municipality, village, summer village, hamlet, settlement area as defined in the Métis Settlements Act, municipal development, industrial development, or private development or private utility. The term includes: water wells, surface water intakes, water supply lines, water storage facilities, water pumphouses, water treatment plants, potable water transmission mains, potable water storage facilities, potable water pumping facilities, water distribution systems, and watering points.
Wetland Land that is saturated with water long enough to promote wetland or aquatic processes as indicated by poorly drained soils, water-loving vegetation, and various kinds of biological activity which are adapted to a wet environment.
Wetland loss Includes infilling, altering, or physically draining a wetland, any impact to the riparian area or buffer strips, and any type of interference with the hydrology to and from a wetland.
White area
(white zone)

1. The settled regions of Alberta where agriculture is the most significant land use, including the grasslands and parklands of southern and central regions, and the Peace Country in the north.
2. The White Area includes nearly 40% of the total area of Alberta.

In contrast, the Green Area (Green Zone) is the mainly public, forested lands of northern Alberta and the Eastern Slopes that are not available for agricultural development, other than grazing.