A teacher’s convention session on the infamous Tar Sands of Northern Alberta, and subsequent discussions with my Uncle has got me thinking more about the things that are happening up North. Surely, it is the engine of my province’s economy. Surely, even my job is at least partially dependent on it. Surely, our provincial government could be showing some vision by using the tremendous wealth to spur a change in the way we take care of the environment, develop sustainable energy sources, heal the social ills that the fractured communities of the oil patch have fostered, and remember to take care of a liquid even more precious than oil – water.
According to the government of Alberta:
- 37 million cubic meters of fresh water was used in deep oil wells and will not be recovered – it is no longer part of the water cycle because it’s below the water table in 2001 (I couldn’t find more recent info)
- Thankfully, the government points out, this is only as much water as passes through the North Saskatchewan River in two days, or only 7.5% of the Oldman River Reservoir. Oh, so we’re only losing that much water PERMANENTLY??
- According to the governments figures and my calculations, this is also the same amount of water that 30,000 homes that are not connected to a municipal water system are guaranteed to have access to in one year.
- So we’re permanently losing as much water PER YEAR, as 30,000 Alberta homes require?
Alberta has an incredible amount of fresh water. Agriculture uses an incredible 46% of all of the water used in Alberta. While this is a huge amount of water (as compared to Oil’s 5%), agriculture’s usage is recoverable, because it does not leave the water cycle.
Water and steam injection systems pump water so far below the surface of the earth, that it is below the levels of groundwater, and for all intense and purposes, lost to the water cycle.
I suppose some good news, is that in 1977 we were actually pumping twice as much under ground. Yikes…
Update: Whoa! I was on Canadian Association of Petroleum Producer’s site, and they claim that ‘our use of fresh water per barrel of oil produced decreased significantly – 16.67 per cent from 2006 to 2007.’