A safe and plentiful supply of surface water is crucial to the well-being of every resident of Alberta. The effective and efficient use of surface water is central to economic growth and environmental sustainability. As the necessary but competing demands on surface water intensify, the awareness of its limited supply increases. This is particularly evident in southern Alberta, which has experienced significant agricultural, industrial and population growth. In addition to its use for extensive irrigation, surface water in the South Saskatchewan River basin is vital to meet drinking and sanitation needs in rural and urban communities. Management of this key resource involves many researchable issues– water supply, water treatment, water distribution, wastewater collection and processing, flood control, navigation, hydropower production, aquatic recreation – which interact with each other and with government policies. The purpose of this article is to outline the priorities for socio-economic research on surface water resource issues in light of the ever-changing legal and policy frameworks in Alberta.