Surface Water Quality Activities

General information on water quality protection in the Prairies and the role of the PPWB Board is presented below. The Prairie Provinces Water Board (PPWB)'s Strategic Plan contains three goals that involve surface water quality: Goal 3 - achieve inter-provincial water quality objectives are met; Goal 4 - report emergency and unusual water quality conditions to jurisdictions; and Goal 5 - avoid interjurisdictional conflicts. Detailed information on the PPWB Water Quality Objectives and these Goals can be linked to in the submenus of the Water Quality Activities.


Water Quality Protection in the Prairies


Both provincial and federal governments are involved in the protection of water quality. Provincial governments (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) have the primary responsibility for managing and protecting water quality within their provinces, including the provision and regulation of drinking water and wastewater services. The federal government is responsible for ensuring the safety of drinking water within areas of federal jurisdiction, such as national parks and Aboriginal reserves. The federal government also protects water quality by regulating toxic substances, conducting water quality research, and promoting pollution prevention to protect the aquatic environment and water for human uses.


Federal-provincial governments have also cooperated to develop non-regulatory national water quality objectives. The federal-provincial Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) has developed both environmental quality and human uses objectives. Environment and Climate Change Canada has also developed federal environmental quality guidelines to protect aquatic life, wildlife consumers of aquatic life, and agricultural irrigation and livestock uses. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is also involved in the development of the agricultural objectives. Similarly, Health Canada and the provinces have developed drinking water and recreational objectives to protect water quality for human uses.


The Prairie Provinces Water Board (PPWB) is involved in the protection of water quality at the Prairie Provincial boundaries. This tiered approach is thought to enhance efforts of the various governments. The federal-provincial governments play a role in developing national guidelines. Provincial governments implement provincial guidelines within their provinces. The PPWB monitors and assesses the quality of water at Provincial borders using objectives that are specific to each river, and provides a forum to exchange information, discuss issues and cooperatively address water quality issues amongst the member jurisdictions. 


A review of the 1992 interprovincial water quality objectives was conducted and updated in 2015 and most recently in 2021.  The 2021 interprovincial water quality objectives are based on the most protective water use guidelines.  There are now 71 interprovincial water quality objectives for water quality parameters, including nutrients, metals, major ions, physical characteristics, pesticides and radioisotopes.   

The MAA was signed in 1969 by Canada and the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in recognition of the need to cooperatively share and manage interprovincial waters for the benefit of present and future generations.