Bitumen Sands + Water
The media coverage and environmental debate over Alberta's development of its oilsands resources has reached a global audience. Both government and industry face significant challenges in proving that environmental protection and economic development can happen together.
Oil-rich sands in Alberta contain an estimated 173 billion barrels, the second largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia. The oil sands are a key driver of the economy in Alberta, other provinces and at a national level. There are 173 billion barrels of oil in the oil sands proven to be recoverable with today’s technology and under current economic conditions. In addition, there is an estimated total of 315 billion barrels of potentially recoverable oil in the oil sands.
Oil sands are contained in three major areas of northern Alberta beneath approximately 140,000 square kilometres, with approximately 500 square kilometres of land currently disturbed by oil sands surface mining activity. To put that in perspective, the oil sands underlie an area more than three times the size of Switzerland, while the area with the potential for surface mining is smaller than Lake Geneva.
Visit the Government of Alberta website to learn more:
Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN)
Oil Sands Research and Information Network (OSRIN)is an independent organization operating within the School of Energy and the Environment at the University of Alberta. Our aim is to be the destination of choice for those seeking reliable information related to mineable oil sands reclamation. OSRIN is a university-based, independent organization that compiles, interprets and analyses available knowledge about returning landscapes and water impacted by oil sands mining to a natural state and gets that knowledge into the hands of those who can use it to drive breakthrough improvements in reclamation regulations and practices.
Environmental Monitoring and Reporting in Alberta and the Oilsands Region
The federal and Alberta provincial governments have each established independent environmental monitoring panels. Each group of experts is tasked with making recommendations for the development of a world-class environmental monitoring, evaluation and reporting system for the oilsands region, and for the rest of the province. Each panel’s recommendations will look at how to better monitor, evaluate and report on water, air, land and biodiversity. Learn more about the:
Athabasca River Water Management Framework
Alberta sets strict limits on how much water oil sands companies can remove from the Athabasca River, setting a high level of protection that is balanced with the needs of the community and industry. The goal is to ensure low impact to the river ecosystem, coupled with water conservation and innovation by water users.
In July 2006, AENV and Fisheries and Oceans Canada issued the draft Water Management Framework: Instream Flow Needs and Water Management System for the Lower Athabasca River (the "Framework"). The stated goal of the draft Framework was "to minimize risk to the aquatic ecosystem while balancing water requirements for human use." The final Framework, issued in February 2008, establishes maximum withdrawals and strict limits on how much water oil sands companies can divert from the lower Athabasca River.
- See the Framework news release
- Read the complete Framework
- Read an article by Samantha Wahl-Hrdlicka, summarizing the Framework (source: Mondaq)
Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region
The Water Management Framework for the Industrial Heartland and Capital Region Report is the result of consultation, collaboration and future-focused planning for growth by Alberta Environment, industry, municipalities, and representatives from municipal water and wastewater treatment facilities and the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance.