How is Groundwater Allocated and Used?

Groundwater Allocations

How is Groundwater Allocated and Used?In our province, roughly 308.3 million cubic meters (m3) of groundwater is licensed for use to support various activities on the landscape. As indicated in the chart (right), 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).

It is evident that all of the major basins in Alberta have groundwater allocations that are not being fully utilized. As such, there is future capacity to develop this resource given the current usage patterns, use as a percentage of estimated recharge, and future use projections.

Groundwater Use (estimated)

From a usage standpoint (see chart - upper right), 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 the North Saskatchewan Basin is used (47%), but is still quite short of the full allocation.

How is Groundwater Allocated and Used?Groundwater that is allocated and licensed for use in Alberta is not equally apportioned between the various major sectors. The chart (left) shows the provincial split between various major users of groundwater.

The clearly dominant user is the Petroleum sector at 43%, with the majority of that water being used to support enhanced oil recovery operations and thermal in situ developments. Next is the Agricultural sector at 30%, where groundwater is used to support irrigation and rearing of livestock. The remaining sectors, in descending order, include: Commercial (9%), Municipal (8%), Other (8%), which includes habitat enhancement and water management initiatives and Industrial (3%).


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?