Groundwater Use and Recharge

In our province, roughly 308.3 million cubic metres of groundwater is licensed for use to support various activities on the landscape. As indicated in Figure 19, the majority of that licensed amount occurs in the Athabasca Basin (89.3 million m³.) The reason for the large allocation in the Athabasca relates to the oil and gas sector, primarily in situ thermal recovery activities. The next largest allocation is attributed to the Oldman Basin (61.1 million m³), followed by the North Saskatchewan Basin (46.9 million m³.) However, from a usage standpoint, only 29% of the groundwater allocated in the Athabasca Basin is actually used, while only 10% is used in the Oldman Basin. In contrast, a significant percentage of the licensed groundwater in the North Saskatchewan Basin is used (47%), which is still quite short of the full allocation.

A considerable amount of water recharges the subsurface annually through percolation and infiltration of precipitation and melting snow. This recharge represents the “renewable” part of our province’s groundwater resource, with water being added at variable amount each year. Some of this groundwater is removed for use as municipal, agricultural or industrial supply. Understanding the balance between input and output of groundwater is an important concept in the sustainable use of groundwater as a supporting resource for current and future development.

Section 3: Use and Recharge

Module 1: How is our groundwater allocated and used?
Module 2: What are the differences between basins?
Module 3: How much water recharges our province?
Module 4: What are the anticipated trends in use?