The Alberta Government announced their 2024 Drought Response Plan on May 2.

This plan covers everything from their conservation plans and water-sharing agreements to how they declare an emergency and prioritize water for human safety.

The Drought Response Plan will help to ensure that communities, farmers, ranchers, businesses, and all Albertans are able to get whatever support they need, said Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz in a media release.

"This spring has brought much-needed moisture to many areas of the province, and new forecasts showing increased precipitation are a cause for optimism. However, we must remain prepared for drought now and into the future," explained the Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Shulz in a media release from May 2nd. "Alberta’s Drought Response Plan is foundational to that work and will help our province respond to all levels of drought for years to come."

Because drought conditions can change quickly and impact different areas in different ways, this Drought Response Plan will help irrigators, communities, businesses, the government, and others to respond effectively to a variety of drought conditions.

This plan outlines the five stages of Alberta's drought response, the roles and responsibilities of partners, the approaches and tools that can be used in drought conditions, and how/when emergencies would be declared.

Those objectives are protecting the health and safety of Albertans from drought, minimizing the impact of drought on communities and the economy and the environment, implementing a risk-based approach to assess/prepare for and respond to the impacts of drought, ensuring responses to drought conditions are agile and adjusted in real time, and enabling all Albertans to take appropriate action and to conserve water and work together.

The first three stages of the plan involves the monitoring and observation of water availability, active management, and the priority call and risk to interprovincial apportionment.

Currently, Alberta is in Stage 4, which involves significant water shortage in multiple Water Management Areas, and many water users are challenged to access water, with significant basin or provincial scale conditions.

In stage 5, emergency measures are needed to protect human health, public safety, critical infrastructure, critical environmental needs, and the welfare of livestock.

There are three ways that an emergency will be declared.

The first way is if there is not sufficient water available for what they consider top priorities.

The next is if there is increased distress from local authorities, or if local authorities are unable to respond to drought-caused issues.

The final option is if Alberta's water management system becomes overwhelmed and staff cannot implement or process regulatory measures quickly enough, slowing down the drought response.

Each situation will be looked at individually to determine if declaring an emergency is needed.

If an emergency is declared, the provincial government wants to remind people that declared emergencies are temporary to allow the government to prioritize water usage, and they do not replace the regulatory requirements of the Water Act.

If one is declared, the government will be working alongside water users to take steps to manage the water in the area.

Those steps may include suspending approvals, registrations or water licenses, and designating the purpose and the volume for which water will be used and diverted.

On top of the risk of drought this year, May and June often come with the risk of flooding.

Because of that, the province has a 24-hour monitoring and emergency response program, as well as the $125-million Drought and Flood Protection Program and their investments in wetlands, watersheds, and the modernization of Alberta's water management system.

This Drought Response Plan is a living document and will be updated as needed.

To read the full plan, click here.