Canada Oil Sands Impact on Water

  • Water just like oil is a precious resource on our planet and to our planet
  • Water is used in both mining a situ oil sands
  • The size an growth of the oil sands operations means that the overall water use remains significant

In situ – when the oil is really low in the ground they use this, steams and solvents of thermal energy make the bitumen flow to the point that it can be pumped by a well to the surface.
  • In situ projects largest use of water is to generate steam that is then injected in the ground
  • Water fro in situ is from underground aquifers, not from the Athabasca river and the water is not drinkable
  • Recycle 90% of the water used in their operations
  • Using deep well saline water as an alternative to fresh water wherever possible

  • Most of the water that is used in the oil sands is recycled
  • Originally oil sands projects drew fresh water from the Athabasca river but today less than 1 percent of the water that flows in the Athabasca river
  • 80-90% of used water is recycled fromt he oil sands projects
  • Use of fresh water by mature oil sands mining operations is decreasing despite significant increases in production
  • Athabasca River Water Management framework had limits on withdrawals maintaining flow at/near natural conditions
  • Alberta researchers are collaborating with Hemholtz Association of German research Centres through a $25-million grant to improve water use in oil sands
  • Alberta researchers are also partnered with GE Power and Water Process Technologies through a $15 million project improving the treatment and re-use of water in some of the oil sands operations


  • Many long term impacts that could possibly affect the river because of the oil sands increasing in the future
  • Contaminants could be effecting the rivers but studies are underway examining the effects of air emissions, land disturbance, drainage and the potential for seepages or spills
  • Contaminating local habitats and the quality of the rivers

Watch this petropolis video for more information from a water expert who knows all about the water and oil sands issues if you would like to learn more about what is going on...