The South Saskatchewan drainage region extends from the Rocky Mountain foothills in southern Alberta into Saskatchewan and includes Calgary, Red Deer and Saskatoon. Land used for agricultural production—arable land and natural land for pasture—accounted for 77.7% of the drainage region in 2011, the second highest proportion in Canada, followed by natural and semi-natural area (19.6%) and built-up area (2.7%).
The drainage region had the second highest fertilizer application area in the country at 51,958 km2, accounting for 58% of the region’s arable land in 2011. Irrigation is an important land management practice in the region—5,236 km2 of farmland in this region was irrigated, 68% of Canada’s total irrigated area.
The population was 2,168,447 in 2011—6% of Canada’s total—with a population density of 12.7 persons/km2. Population was up 128% compared to 949,194 in 1971.
Surface freshwater intake from irrigation, drinking water plants, thermal-electric production, manufacturing and mining was 1,942.3 million m3 in 2013, the third highest in the country.
The average annual water yield was a relatively low 10.3 km3 over the period 1971 to 2013. The water yield per unit area was 0.06 m3/m2, the third lowest in the country. Monthly water flows peak in June. Evapotranspiration was 0.34 m3/m2, compared to 0.23 m3/m2 at the Canada level.
Sources of nitrogen and phosphorus residuals in the environment include fertilizer application, livestock and poultry production and industrial emissions. In 2014, 107,769 tonnes of nitrogen-containing substances were emitted to air, land and water by industrial facilities. These emissions accounted for 14% of direct industrial emissions across Canada.