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Energy & Water

Water Matters raises awareness of the impacts on water resources associated with the energy sector in Alberta.

Alberta's energy sector is the primary engine of the province’s economy. Based on 2005 figures the oil and gas sector was allocated, through licenses, 7.1 per cent of the total water licensed in Alberta. Higher percentages are allotted to Agriculture (45.5%) primarily for irrigation and to municipalities (11.2%). However, unlike most water used for those purposes, water used for in the oil and gas industry usually does not return to the watershed from which it was taken.

While the oil and gas industry's use of water is regulated through a system of licensing and monitoring in accordance with various Acts and policies, the cumulative effect of this sector’s withdrawals substantially affects water resources. Downstream impacts on drinking water supplies, the loss of useable water to toxic tailings ponds and the disposal of production water in aquifers affect all Albertans.

The energy sector's impact reaches beyond water supply concerns into other areas. For example, the oil sands sector in northern Alberta has had a profound impact on wetland resources. In central Alberta, growing impacts from coal-bed methane have raised concerns about groundwater contamination and groundwater levels. Other concerns related to energy and water in Alberta include the risks associated with pipeline leaks in or near water resources, and the impacts of hydroelectric and nuclear energy operations on watershed health.

Our Work

Water Matters follows issues related to water and energy across the province and builds public awareness of the impacts — cumulative and acute — associated with water resources and the energy sector.


GoA. October 2006. Talk about Oil and Gas. Water Use by Alberta's Oil and Gas Industry. Fact Sheet.

Griffiths, M. et al., May 2006. Troubled Waters, Troubling Trends. Technology and Policy Options to Reduce Water Use in Oil and Oil Sands Development in Alberta. The Pembina Institute.