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Water Use Performance

Updated August 2019

Data for this report are available in the following format:

Data Considerations

Water Allocation Data

Allocation data may be overestimated due to the fact that allocations are calculated by summing allocation volumes at all diversion points. This may overestimate total allocations because some licences contain conditional allocations based on specific points of diversion. This is done as a protective measure to ensure that companies are diverting from areas that are most able to support a diversion in variable conditions. Nonetheless, companies cannot divert more than what they were allocated on their licence. Therefore, the data shown for all allocations should be considered as the most conservative estimate of allocation to the industry.

Water Use

Allocations dictate where the water will be withdrawn from, but the water is often used in other areas. Therefore, at a Hydrologic Unit Code 8 (defined by Alberta Environment and Parks) level, the volume of water used may exceed volumes of water allocated if that water was sourced elsewhere. Additionally, annual volumes of water used may differ from that allocated due to water potentially being stored before it is used.

Oil Sands Mining Data

Water use data from the water use reporting system was categorized as follows:

  • Nonsaline water includes surface river or runoff water and nonsaline groundwater.
  • The barrel of oil equivalent (BOE) calculation for mining includes bitumen.

Recycled water volumes for oil sands mining were provided by operators.

Enhanced Oil Recovery Data

Water use data from Petrinex was categorized as follows:

  • Nonsaline water is "freshwater".
  • Alternative water is "brackish" and "water".
  • Recycled water refers to water production from enhanced oil recovery wells minus wastewater injected into disposal wells and off-site dispositions of wastewater.
  • The BOE calculation for enhanced oil recovery includes natural gas; condensates; bitumen; and light, light-medium, medium, heavy, or ultra-heavy crude.

In Situ Data

Water use data from Petrinex was categorized as follows:

  • Nonsaline water is "freshwater".
  • Alternative water is "brackish" (if not stated otherwise, it also includes oil sands process-affected water).
  • Oil sands process-affected water refers to fresh water and water received from an oil sands mine.
  • Recycled water is water produced from thermal in situ oil sands wells minus wastewater injected into disposal wells and off-site dispositions of wastewater.
  • The BOE calculation for in situ recovery includes bitumen.

Hydraulic Fracturing Data

Water use data submitted per Directive 059: Well Drilling and Completion Data Filing Requirementswas categorized as follows:

  • Nonsaline water includes central distribution facility water, nonsaline groundwater (below/above 150 m), municipal water, surface water (lake, river, or runoff), and waste water (industrial, municipal, oilfield).
  • Alternative water refers to saline groundwater, oilfield produced water, and recycled fracturing water (treated at an independent standalone facility).
  • Recycled water refers to recycled fracturing water treated at a well site.
  • The BOE calculation for hydraulic fracturing includes natural gas, condensates, and light-medium crude.

Groundwater availability values are estimated and aggregated at the watershed scale; surface watersheds don't necessarily govern groundwater flow and could be transferred between watersheds. This means that there may be either an overestimation or an underestimation of groundwater availability.

Availability does not imply that groundwater will be accessible at all locations within the watershed. We determine groundwater availability by reviewing multiple studies from different areas of Alberta. Detailed assessment methods can be found in the following reports:

Groundwater availability in this water use report is equal to regional groundwater recharge, which is equivalent to the safe yield defined in Open File Report 2017-07, and the mean of the high and low values for maximum sustained yield defined in Open File Report 2018-09. Where overlap between study areas occurred, the results of Open File Report 2018-09 were used.

For watersheds covered by Open File Report 2017-07, groundwater recharge was determined using records of river flow during periods of low flow, when groundwater is likely the main contributor. For watersheds covered by Open File Report 2018-09, recharge was determined using a soil water balance model called versatile soil moisture budget, accounting for the process of depression-focused recharge that is common in the prairies of Alberta. All results were aggregated to the HUC8 watershed level.