ENVIRONMENT OBJECTIVE – CAPP members will continually improve environmental performance.

Canadians place a high value on the country’s fresh water resources. They want to know that our industry is using water responsibly, without undue negative impact on water quality or availability.

Depending on the location and nature of the operation, our industry uses many different types of water that include:

  • Fresh water from surface water bodies or underground aquifers;
  • Saline groundwater that is high in dissolved salt and is not suitable for domestic or agricultural uses;
  • Recycled water that comes from municipal waste water treatment facilities or other poor quality sources; and
  • Reuse of waste water from other oil and gas activities.

Industrial use of fresh water is strictly regulated in Canada, and the use of poor quality alternative sources is encouraged. A licence or permit is required to access surface water or fresh groundwater from Crown land, and the operator is responsible for monitoring the volume used. Each provincial government closely regulates the amount of water that is licensed for use, and must be satisfied that the amount being withdrawn each year is sustainable.

CAPP members are committed to safeguarding water resources though efficient use and ensuring appropriate systems, such as CAPP’s hydraulic fracturing operating practices, are in place to minimize risk of contaminating natural water systems. As hydrocarbon resource availability continues to come from more challenging reservoirs, water plays an increasing role in the extraction process. Industry continues to look for ways to conserve both the hydrocarbon and water resources by using available and new technologies. The oil sands sector, for example, is a leader in researching and implementing technologies to maximize water recycling. One example is the use of evaporator technology by in situ developers to treat and produce cleaner feed water for steam generation. In 2013, in situ operators used 94 per cent recycled water for the generation of steam for injection.

In addition, our industry is working with provincial and federal government agencies to increase data collection and monitoring activities. These activities improve knowledge and management of regional surface and groundwater resources. In northeast British Columbia, for example, industry is working with the provincial government and others on a project to develop a regional groundwater monitoring network. With this data, analysis and knowledge, we will be better positioned to understand our environmental impact and where the greatest opportunities lie for improvement.



  • In oil sands mining, heated water is used to separate the sticky bitumen from sand and clay.

  • In oil sands in situ operations, steam is generated to heat the bitumen underground, allowing it to flow to the surface.

  • In older, conventional fields involving enhanced oil recovery, water is pumped down the well to force the oil out of the cracks and pores so it can be pumped to the surface.

  • In hydraulic fracturing, water is pumped at high pressure into tight formations with low permeability to open fractures in the rock, allowing natural gas and crude oil to become mobile and flow to a well for recovery.


The best way to achieve continuous improvement in environmental performance is to fully understand the extent of our industry’s impact on water resources and to invest in technologies and best practices to reduce those impacts. Oil and gas operators in Canada support sound scientific data collection and are collaborating with each other, with government, communities and scientists to achieve this objective. Valuable data on the quality and quantity of water in the Athabasca region is being collected through various agencies, including Environment Canada, JOSM and the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA). This data will help industry to understand and mitigate potential impacts to the system. Coordinated efforts to manage water withdrawals for mining operations have improved flows in the river during critical winter low flow periods. In addition, improvements in fresh water efficiency in oil sands in situ operations illustrate in real terms how collaboration and innovation can reduce the need for fresh water inputs.

In recent years, much attention has focused on the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing on groundwater and drinking water wells, potential spills and disposal of waste fluids. Regulations in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick require disclosure of the specific chemical ingredients used during the hydraulic fracturing process. To further address public concerns, CAPP developed a set of guiding principles and operating practices for hydraulic fracturing. These guiding principles and practices support water management and encourage improvements in shale gas, tight gas and tight oil operations across Canada.