Municipal Affairs and Environment

Policy for Allocation of Water Use

Division: Water Resources Management P.D. W.R. 88-1
Prepared By: Amir Ali Khan, Ph.D, P.Eng. Issue Date: May 24, 1988
Approved By: Haseen Khan Director Re-Issue Date: June 3, 2018
Approved By: Dana Spurrell ADM Review Date:
Authorized By: Jamie Chippett DM Superseded:  
Hon. Andrew Parsons Minister Cancelled:


Policy for allocation of water use


The policy will establish a mechanism for issuing a water use licence/authorization to an applicant under the Water Resources Act, SNL 2002 cW-4.01.


According to Part 1 of the Water Resources Act, SNL 2002 cW-4.01,

9.(1) the property in and the right to the use and flow of water in a body of water in the province are for all purposes vested in the Crown, and a right to divert or use water or a body of water shall not be acquired by prescription.

14.(1) A person shall apply for and the minister may, after considering the potential adverse effects, issue to that person, with or without terms and conditions, a licence

(a) to divert or use water for a municipal, agricultural, institutional, commercial or industrial purpose, and for water and thermal power generation and other purposes that the minister considers necessary;

(b) to divert or impound water for the purpose of water management, flood control, erosion control, flow regulation, conservation, recreation or the propagation of fish or wildlife;

(c) to use water in its natural state for the purpose of a commercial recreational use, conservation and for the propagation of plant, fish or other animal life; and

(d) for another purpose that the minister may establish.


Water Resources Act, SNL 2002 cW-4.01, ("the Act").


The allocation of the use of water in the Province will be subject to the following policy guidelines established under the authority vested by the Act.

4.1 Application

4.1.1 This policy applies to owners of existing water rights.

4.1.2 This policy does not affect the riparian rights of a natural person owning or lawfully occupying land adjoining a river, stream, pond, lake or other body of water, to use a quantity of that water as he or she requires for domestic purposes without appreciable alteration in its quantity or quality.

4.1.3 This policy applies to the use or diversion of all surface and ground waters for any beneficial purpose.

4.1.4 Applications for water rights shall have priority in the following order:

  1. domestic purposes;
  2. municipal purposes;
  3. agricultural purposes;
  4. commercial, institutional and industrial purposes;
  5. water and thermal power generation purposes; and
  6. other purposes prescribed by regulation.

4.2 Procedure

4.2.1 The applicant shall, with an application for a licence in a prescribed form, file with the Department such information and plans as required and pay the applicable fee.

4.2.2 The application will be assessed by the officials of this Department in relation to the availability of water, existing uses, potential water use conflicts, potential pollution or impairment of water quality, and downstream impacts among other considerations. This feasibility analysis may also involve field visits, surveys and measurements.

4.2.3 On the recommendation of his/her officials the Minister will issue a licence on a prescribed form with such terms and conditions as he/she considers necessary to ensure efficient utilization of the allocated water.

4.2.4 A record of the licence shall be maintained in the Department in a Registry of Water Rights. The Registry of Water Rights shall be open for inspection by the public during usual business hours.

4.2.5 The licensee/holder of the licence shall obtain approval from this Department under Section 48 of the Act for alterations to bodies of water by constructing works that may be necessary in the exercise of the water rights granted under the licence/authorization. These may include the construction of dams, reservoirs, dykes, spillways, access roads, etc.

4.2.6 The licensee/holder of the licence shall be required to keep an account of water used and water quality sampling results and submit them on prescribed forms on a regular basis to this Department. Also, the Department may require inspection of the works from time to time to ensure that works are in a proper and safe condition and the licensee/holder of the licence is complying with the terms and conditions of the licence.

4.3 Cancellation of A Licence/Authorization

4.3.1 The Minister may cancel, alter or suspend any licence if the licensee/holder of the licence ceased to exercise the rights granted under the licence or violated the terms and conditions of the licence or made any false or misleading statement in any application, information, material or plan supplied in support of an application for a licence.

4.3.2 The Minister may cancel a licence under this policy if requested to do so by the licensee/holder of the licence.

4.4 Offence

4.4.1 A person who uses or diverts water without a licence from the Minister is guilty of an offence under the Act.

4.4.2 A licensee/holder of a licence who violates any of the terms and conditions of the licence is guilty of an offence under the Act.

4.5 Commencement

4.5.1 This policy will come in force immediately.

4.5.2 Procedural guidelines as and when developed to streamline the licensing process will become part of this policy.

For additional information on this topic or any other water resources related topics please contact us

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