The province's Minister of Environment and Protected Areas, Rebecca Schulz is warning that the province is warning for a serious drought this year.

"Most of the water that Albertans use to drink, grow crops, run our businesses and sustain our environment comes from rain and melting snow. The last three years have brought droughts and water shortages in various parts of our province, including most of Southern Alberta this summer," Minister Schulz wrote in a letter last month. 

This coupled with the warmest-on-record December in over 141 years, along with the El Niño effect, the province is preparing for a serious drought in the coming months. According to Schulz, Alberta has five stages in its water management plan; ranging from Stage One, which is a minor drought to Stage Five, which is a province-wide emergency.

"We are currently in Stage four. Officials in the Department of Environment and Protected Areas have set up a Drought Command Team and work is underway to finalize a Drought Emergency Plan."

The province said that meetings have already been held with communities, farmers, businesses and others to prepare.

"Many have already taken action to implement conservation measures and adapt to reduced water levels. Our government has announced up to $165 million in federal-provincial drought relief for livestock producers. And, this summer and fall, Calgary, Medicine Hat and other communities adopted voluntary and mandatory restrictions on water use to help Alberta’s stressed river basins."

Over the coming months, the province said it will be carefully monitoring snowpack, rainfall, river levels and actual water use to develop an early warning capacity.

"We will use this information and scientific modelling to assess the risk of drought next year. We have launched to keep all Albertans updated as we take these steps."

According to Alysa Pederson, a Warning Preparedness Meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said that December is typically a drier month due to cold weather.

"In December 2023, we had 13.9 millimetres of precipitation and a lot of that came as snow in an event on December 7. Generally, we get about 10 millimetres of precipitation in December, so, we're right on average for December. That being said, the fall was very dry, and so was past summer," she said. "So, we are in a precipitation deficit in southern Alberta."

Last year was the eighth driest year on record for Calgary and the surrounding areas. The drier and warmer weather also possibly contributed to a grassfire that broke out Northwest of Airdrie in December.

Locally, The City of Airdrie had imposed water restrictions for several months in 2023 from mid-August until the end of October. Calgary also had similar water restrictions in place. 

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