British Columbia

B.C. mulls long-term water permits for shale gas drilling

The B.C. government is considering whether to give long-term water permits to eight companies drilling for shale gas.

The B.C. government is considering whether to give long-term water permits to eight companies drilling for shale gas.

The companies need more water for a process called fracking — blasting gas from shale rock with a mix of chemicals, sand and water.

One company, Talisman Energy, wants to pipe water from the Williston Lake reservoir to its gas wells.

"Drawing water from the Williston [reservoir] is an environmentally sustainable way for us to source water," said Talisman spokesperson Jennifer Findlay.

The government said it will make a decision in the coming weeks.

But Independent MLA Bob Simpson fears B.C. is giving away its water haphazardly.

"We have a Wild West going on up there, and it's time we realized the impact of these decisions."

The B.C. government says there is no requirement for public consultation — something Simpson would like to see change.

Gwen Johansson, who lives near the proposed water pipeline, also wants more public debate about the gas industry's growing demands for water.

"We're only at the beginning of the shale gas development," she said. "We know if the price of natural gas goes up, then those companies are going to need water. British Columbians need to have a look — what uses it is being put to and also what its future control of it is, and where does it stop?"

B.C. is already providing gas companies with 78 million cubic metres a year of water from rivers, creeks, and streams on short-term permits — the equivalent of drawing down 31,000 Olympic swimming pools each year.

With files from the CBC's Betsy Trumpener