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Updated November 2022

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The maximum volume of nonsaline water licensed for use under the Water Act.

Alternative water
Water other than surface water and nonsaline groundwater, including saline groundwater, produced oilfield water, hydraulic fracturing flowback water, and wastewaters.

When waters of transboundary watercourses are shared, Alberta permits a quantity of water equal to a portion of the natural flow of each watercourse to flow into other provinces or jurisdictions. Apportionment is the legal allocation determining how much water each jurisdiction can use.

Apportionment agreement 
Alberta has formal agreements with downstream neighbours (interprovincial and international) to allow for specific minimum volumes of water to flow into their jurisdictions. 


Barrel (bbl)
A standard measure of volume used in oilfield operations; 1 barrel is approximately 159 litres, or 42 US gallons. Approximately 6.2929 barrels are in one cubic metre of oil, while approximately 6.2901 barrels are in one cubic metre of water.

Barrel of oil equivalent (BOE)
A unit of measure that allows one to standardize production volumes from different energy resources, such as natural gas, condensate, and different types of crude oils. In this report, different types of hydrocarbons are converted to a standard barrel of light-medium crude (38.5 GJ) for the purposes of comparing water use intensity.

For example, one cubic metre of bitumen converts to 42.8 GJ (see ST98). Dividing that by 38.5, and multiplying by 6.2929 to convert cubic metres to barrels gives the BOE. So This means one cubic metre of bitumen is equal to approximately 7.00 BOE.


Cumulative water availability/allocation
Map values that include contributing upstream sources in the allocated or available volumes of surface water for a hydrologic unit code 8 area. Values that do not include upstream contributions are categorized as "local."


Removing nonsaline water from a lake, river, run-off collection pond, aquifer, or other water body for any purpose, including energy development.


Water beneath the Earth's surface and is present in pore spaces or fractures.

Groundwater availability
The average annual groundwater recharge (i.e., when surface water percolates into the ground) to a depth of 150 metres below the surface, estimated and aggregated at the hydrologic unit code 8 scale.


Hydrologic unit code 8 (HUC 8)
A classification based on a system developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that divides an area into smaller and smaller hydrologic units and that was adapted by the Government of Alberta for use in Alberta. The province has four HUCs, from coarsest to finest level: HUC 2, 4, 6 and 8.


Local water availability or allocation
Map values of the surface water volumes allocated or available for a hydrologic unit code 8 area, excluding contributions from upstream sources. Values that include upstream contributions are categorized as "cumulative."


Make-up water
Water that is added to an energy process to replenish water that is lost during that process. Make-up water supplements recycled water and can be obtained from either nonsaline or alternative water sources.


Nonsaline water
Water having a total dissolved solids content of 4000 mg/L or less. Sometimes referred to as fresh water, but it may require treatment before it can be used for domestic or agricultural purposes.

Nonsaline water-use intensity
The volume of nonsaline water (in barrels) that is used to produce one barrel of oil equivalent.


Oil sands process-affected water
Alternative make-up water received from the wastewater stream of an oil sands mine.


Fluids that are added to injection water to increase the viscosity of the water and improve recovery.


Recycled water
Water that was previously used in or produced from an energy activity and is then reused by operators in that same process.


Saline groundwater
Groundwater with a concentration of total dissolved solids greater than 4000 milligrams per litre. 

Surface water
All water on the surface of the ground, including water in lakes, rivers, and run-off collection ponds, natural or manmade.

Fluids that are added to injection water to reduce the tension between oil and water; the less tension between the materials, the more easily it can be recovered.


Total availability
The estimated volume of nonsaline water in Alberta. It is derived from estimates of both surface water sources and the mapped shallow nonsaline groundwater sources. Water availability data comes from Agriculture Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Annual Unit Runoff in Canada – 2013. Even though the unit runoff dataset is from 2013, the median runoff does not change drastically over the years.


An area of land that catches precipitation (rain, snow) that drains or seeps into a common stream, lake, or river. The boundaries of a watershed are topographically high points on the land.

Water use
The actual volume of water used by an operator.