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Geography and Ecology
of the Mighty Peace


From its shores, the Peace River can seem limitless. The Mighty Peace, as it is known to many, is the largest river in Alberta, meandering nearly 2,000 kilometres from its source in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia until it joins the Slave River near the Northwest Territories. At some points approaching two km in width, it drains nearly a third of Alberta, and contributes over 68 trillion litres of water annually to a river system that eventually flows into the Arctic Ocean.1

But just as the global supply of water remains constant, whether in the form of water vapour, ice, snow or rain, so the Peace is a finite resource. The world's need for freshwater will only grow with expanding populations and economies, as will the urgency for cooperative and effective water stewardship. Water management must take into account where the water is found, where it is needed, and who uses it, keeping in mind that:2

  • About 60% of the water flowing in Canada's rivers drains towards the north.
  • Health problems related to water pollution in general are estimated to cost Canadians $300 million per year.
  • Canada is estimated to have 20% of the world's freshwater — and 2.2% of Canada's freshwater is found in Alberta.
  • More than 80% of Alberta's water supply is found in the northern part of the province, but 80% of the demand is in the south.
  • The majority of Alberta's population and industries draw their water from surface water sources.
  • Alberta has about 40,000 cubic kilometres (km3) of groundwater — enough to cover the entire province in about 60 metres of water. But only 0.01% of this groundwater is thought to be recoverable.
  • In many Alberta cities, water running off lawns, driveways, sidewalks, and streets into storm drains is not treated. Rain can wash fertilizers, oil, salt, and soap directly into local rivers and streams. These wastes harm aquatic ecosystems and water quality.

lake scene

A Shared Resource and a Shared Responsibility

In 2003, the Government of Alberta adopted a strategy to tackle some of these challenges. Known as Water for Life, its three goals and three key directions are an attempt to balance the social and economic needs of the people of Alberta with the need for environmental protection.

Water for Life

Safe, secure drinking water Knowledge and research
Healthy aquatic ecosystems Partnerships
Reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy Water conservation

More information on Alberta's Water for Life strategy is available at: