Legal Header

Water Use Performance

Energy companies use water throughout the life cycles of their projects and activities. It’s our job to ensure that Alberta’s energy industry uses water resources responsibly and to identify where there is room for improvement.

Water Use Report

Our Alberta Water Use Performance Report [Tableau] shows how water is allocated and used to recover oil, gas, and oil sands resources. This annual report is part of our larger industry performance program, which measures, evaluates, and reports on the energy development activities that we regulate.

We not only need the information we give on water use to be meaningful, but we also need to be able to make comparisons. So, we have divided the Alberta oil and gas sector into four main extraction technologies (each link below will open Tableau in a new window):

Because the amount of water used for conventional oil and gas wells during drilling operations is quite small, you won’t find them discussed in report. Refining and processing activities are also not included in the report. 

What the Report Says

Companies are using far less water than what is allocated to them. For example, in 2017, the energy industry only used about 25 per cent (260 million cubic metres) of what was allocated to them (about 1 billion cubic metres). That’s less than 0.18 per cent of all the nonsaline water available in Alberta. 

Our understanding of how we use water for energy extraction in Alberta is based on 

  • water availability, 
  • nonsaline water allocation, and 
  • nonsaline water use. 

We’ve estimated that at least 144 billion cubic metres of water are available in Alberta (based on surface water sources across Alberta and a limited set of data on shallow groundwater availability).

But it’s a conservative estimate. We certainly have more data to evaluate, like the data on our many shallow groundwater sources here in Alberta.

Water Use by Extraction Technology

We compare nonsaline water use for different extraction technologies by calculating water use intensity. It’s a measure of how much nonsaline water (in barrels) is needed to produce one barrel of oil equivalent (BOE). 

Here’s a how the energy industry used nonsaline water in terms of intensity between 2013 and 2017:

Find out more about how water is allocated and used among the extraction technologies we regulate:

Surface Water Availability and Allocation

The main source of nonsaline water licensed in Alberta is surface water, accounting for over 96 per cent of all water allocated. The remaining four per cent is from groundwater sources. There is a distinction between the sources of water used by various sectors in Alberta. For example, the energy industry is allocated less than 10 per cent of the licensed surface water, while it is allocated nearly 50 per cent of the licensed groundwater.

Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling Water

Recycling and reusing water is an important part of the resource recovery process. Every technology used to recover Alberta’s energy resources—mining, in situ, enhanced oil recovery, and hydraulic fracturing—recycles and reuses water that was previously used for energy development.

Using alternatives to nonsaline water and making improvements in technology can also reduce how much nonsaline water is needed for energy development.

Report Data

We use a tool called Tableau to report data. It’s an interactive data visualization tool that you can use to filter and customize the data you want to see. You’ll also find  summaries and company specific details on water use and nonsaline water use intensity within.