Alberta has 11 major river basins, and each basin has a Watershed Planning and Advisory Council (WPAC). WPACs in Alberta are non-profit organizations that are designated by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to assess watershed condition and prepare watershed management plans to address watershed issues. They are also involved in educational and stewardship activities. Each WPAC is guided by a Board of Directors made up of representatives from industry; municipal, provincial and federal governments. The North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance is the designated WPAC for the North Saskatchewan River watershed in Alberta.
The North Saskatchewan River watershed is a large land mass with a variety of hydrological systems and ecological regions. It provides water for domestic and municipal use, agriculture, forestry, petroleum and other industries, fishing, recreation and tourism.
It is necessary to manage the vast variety of land uses in the watershed in order to meet the environmental, social and economic needs of the people who work, play and live within its boundaries. To this end, the NSWA initiated an Integrated Watershed Management (IWMP) planning process in 2005. In 2012 the Integrated Watershed Management Plan for the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta was published.
Managing 57,000 square kilometres for a variety of water quality and quantity needs is not a straightforward exercise. Population density, multiple jurisdictions, evolving interest groups, changing land use, as well as different perceptions and expectations make collaboration and cooperation paramount to success.