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Environmental Management Frameworks


Management frameworks for air quality, surface water quality and quantity, groundwater and biodiversity management are intended to provide context within which decisions about future activities and management of existing activities should occur. The management frameworks do this by confirming regional objectives and establishing ambient environmental limits and triggers.


Below are cumulative effects, environmental management frameworks developed by Alberta Environment and Parks in support of regional planning.  

Environmental Management Frameworks for the South Saskatchewan Region (2014) 


Air Quality Management Framework and Surface Water Quality Management Framework for the South Saskatchewan Region.

Environmental Management Frameworks for the Lower Athabasca Region (2012) 


Air Quality Management Framework, Surface Water Quality Management Framework, Surface Water Quantity Management Framework and Groundwater Management Framework, and Tailings Management for the Lower Athabasca Region.


Management Frameworks


Management frameworks are a key approach to manage the long term cumulative effects of development on the environment at a regional level. They build on existing environmental policy, legislation and regulation and provide an understanding of the current state of the environment, as well as emerging trends, challenges and opportunities. Each management framework includes: desired regional objectives, regional limits and triggers for key indicators (or plans to set them), approaches/ actions to achieve objectives, and an approach to monitoring, evaluation, and reporting including how to communicate the results to Albertans.



Management Frameworks for the Lower Athabasca region


Five environmental management frameworks have been developed for the Lower Athabasca Region: air quality, surface water quality, surface water quantity, groundwater and tailings.


The management frameworks describe the monitoring that is being done. Using that monitoring information, Alberta Environment and Parks is annually assessing ambient (outside) air quality, surface water quality and surface water quantity conditions in relation to triggers and limits established in the Lower Athabasca region, and described in detail in the management frameworks.


The Lower Athabasca Regional Plan also calls for a biodiversity management framework for the Lower Athabasca region, and finalization of triggers in the groundwater management framework.



Management Frameworks for the South Saskatchewan region


Alberta Environment and Parks has developed environmental management frameworks for air quality and surface water quality under the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan. These frameworks are designed to maintain flexibility and proactively manage the cumulative effects of human activity on ambient air quality and surface water quality within the South Saskatchewan region. The frameworks facilitate sustainable resource management within the context of regional development and regulated regulatory processes. The frameworks do not replace existing regulatory processes. They contribute to managing growth pressures on air, land and water over the coming decades, adding to and complementing existing policies, legislation, regulations, and management tools. The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan also calls for a biodiversity management framework for the South Saskatchewan region, and a regional approach for groundwater management. ​


Management Response


Limits established within the frameworks represent levels at which the risk of adverse effects on environmental quality is becoming unacceptable. These are clear boundaries in the system not to be exceeded. Triggers are set in advance of limits as early warning signals and support proactive management.


Ambient air and surface water quality conditions in a region will be monitored with reference to the frameworks. If ambient conditions exceed a trigger level at specified regional monitoring locations, the management response includes assessing the need for action as outlined in the frameworks.


The nature of the management actions undertaken will depend on the circumstances and the kinds of approaches that will best support achievement of the regional outcomes and objectives. Management actions can include the use of regulatory tools (such as approval conditions and regulations) and non-regulatory tools (such as education and awareness initiatives and incentive programs).


This proactive and dynamic management approach will help ensure negative trends are identified and assessed, regional limits are not exceeded and the environment remains healthy for the region's residents and ecosystems.



Context for Decision-making


Decision-makers will make choices about activities on the landscape -- considering where ambient air quality, surface water quality, surface water quantity, groundwater and tailings conditions are relative to final limits and triggers in the management frameworks. If ambient environmental conditions are approaching -- or exceed -- environmental limits at specified regional monitoring locations, there will be management actions either restricting further development or enabling changes to current management. Management changes may allow development to proceed in a way that meets the regional objectives and keeps the environmental condition below limits.


The establishment of ambient environmental limits provides context for decision-making by government and by potential applicants for new projects. The limits also encourage industries and other land users to employ best practices, new technologies and process improvements to minimize impacts on the region's air and water.​