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Blueprint Alberta: H20



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The Expert's Opinion

Balance is achievable
David Pryce, Vice President, Western Canada Operations, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers


Water has been a critical component in the extraction and processing of oil and natural gas in Alberta since the early days of the province’s petroleum industry.

Half the oil produced in Alberta is developed through methods that use water to help bring oil to the surface. In fact, earlier government policy had encouraged enhanced oil recovery and recognized water as the primary tool to do that. This water-enhanced oil recovery generates more than $1 billion per year in royalties for the province. Without the continued ability to access water in a responsible manner for our activities, Alberta’s petroleum industry – and the provincial treasury – would be significantly restricted.

However, we recognize the need to reconcile policies of enhanced oil recovery and water conservation and support Alberta’s Water for Life strategy as a means to develop a balance between these policies.

The Alberta government regulates how water is used, who uses it and how much is used. Over the last decade, there has been continuous improvement in the province’s regulations around water – most recently through the Water for Life strategy – that has made Alberta one of the leading jurisdictions in evolving water management regulation.

In Alberta, permits for water use are based on ensuring sustainable yield for priority users – sustainability that must be proved through testing and monitoring. The petroleum industry holds just 7.2 per cent of freshwater allocated for consumption in Alberta – and uses less than half that allocation. While we are not the biggest water user in the province, we recognize we have the same responsibility as any user to conserve water as much as possible.

That’s why the oil and gas industry is working hard to ensure the long-term viability of Alberta’s water resources – by reducing or minimizing the amount of freshwater we use and implementing new technologies and improved practices so the water we do use is used responsibly. It’s simply in our best interests and the best interests of Albertans to ensure we collectively manage Alberta’s water resource.

So, just what are we doing to reduce our need for freshwater?

Conservation efforts include increasing our use of saline water (non-potable water unsuitable for drinking or agriculture) instead of freshwater, and pursuing new technologies such as using CO2 injection instead of water to force oil to the surface. Many oil sands projects continually recycle more than 90 per cent of the water they use. And research continues on new ways to extract petroleum resources that will further reduce the need for water.

Oil and gas development cannot take place in Alberta without strict measures to maintain the integrity of water quality as well. When an oil or gas well is drilled, thick cement and steel casing is placed around the pipe to prevent hydrocarbons from moving into freshwater zones. Provincial guidelines also require baseline testing of certain water wells to establish water quality – including the presence or absence of naturally occurring methane – prior to natural gas from coal drilling.

Through such baseline testing, as well as our regular exploration activities, oil and gas companies are helping to increase understanding of the nature and extent of the province’s groundwater resources. We are committed to our efforts to protect both groundwater and surface water and believe our sector’s initiatives should be part of the broader provincial effort involving all Alberta water users, consistent with the Water for Life strategy.

We need to pursue initiatives that balance the need for the responsible use of water by industries that create significant benefits for Albertans with the need to maintain a robust and healthy water supply for future generations. By working together with government and other stakeholders and by supporting the best practices of our industry, we believe that balance is achievable.

More Experts

David Pryce
Vice President, Western Canada Operations, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers

Camille Dow Baker
President & CEO of the Centre for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology (CAWST)

Robert D. Tarleck
Mayor, City of Lethbridge

Oliver M. Brandes
Water Sustainability Project at the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance

Dr. Mary Griffiths
Senior Policy Analyst, The Pembina Institute

C. Lacombe
Editor of Irrigating Alberta

Mark Bennett
Bow River Basin Council

Chris Godwaldt
Alberta WaterSMART

Kerry Brewin
Senior Biologist with Dillon Consulting Limited

Kent Robinson
Acting CAO MD of Rocky View

Maureen Bell
Water Conservation Trust of Canada


The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 1

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The Best of Blueprint Alberta: H20 - Episode 3


The longest river in Canada is the Mackenzie River at 4,241 kilometres.

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