David Sauchyn, director of the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative at the University of Regina. (Contributed photo).

Fears about large-scale fresh water injections for fracking flow at Red Deer seminar

Repeat cycle of severe drought could intensify in future, says geography expert

Compounding concerns about fracking and earthquakes is a geographer’s warning about the massive water volumes needed for horizontal oil drilling and the inevitability of drought in Alberta.

Giant holding tanks for fresh water — pulled from rivers for use in fracking — can be seen throughout the West Country in Alberta.

Yet river water is a finite resource, said David Sauchyn, professor in Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Regina, in a talk called Mixing Oil and Water, held Saturday at Red Deer College.

He’s investigated the “hydro-climate” of the past millennium by studying ancient wood, and found a repeat cycle of severe droughts in Alberta — which he fears will become more frequent in future because of weather extremes.

Sauchyn notes that when there isn’t enough snowfall in the mountains, Alberta’s rivers are reduced to a fraction of their normal flow, as happened between 2001-02.

Where will this leave central Albertans if these droughts become more frequent because of climate change, Sauchyn questioned. He also wonders how fracking companies will operate once river water is prioritized for human consumption?

“Will these projects just be abandoned? Who will be left to clean them up?”

Sauchyn noted the Red Deer River is one of the few in the province that hasn’t been over-allocated.

But Calgary-based Vesta Energy Ltd. — which was asked by the Alberta Energy Regulator to temporarily cease fracking operations after an earthquake hit Red Deer and Sylvan Lake last week — is seeking to withdraw six million cubic metres of water annually from the river for horizontal drilling.

Red Deer city councillor Lawrence Lee has compared this to having a city of 80,000 people located up-river from Red Deer — only none of the water contaminated with hydrocarbons can be returned to the river — unlike municipal water, which is mostly treated and released.

Noting that inter-provincial agreements require Alberta to allow half of available river water from our province to flow in Saskatchewan, Sauchyn added, “someone should ask these companies what will happen to their projects if it’s no longer possible to extract water from the river?

Sauchyn, who’s a researcher at Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, was asked to speak at RDC by a group of area residents who share concerns about fracking.

Rose Marie Sackela, who lives north of Rocky Mountain House, said contaminated “sludge,” from fracking operations is already being spread on agricultural land. Shackela was shocked to discover this is legal in Alberta, and is concerned this chemical soup can leech into streams, rivers as well as the water table.

Shackela is also also worried about the “billions and billions of litres” of river water that fracking companies keep in portable holding tanks for injection deep into the ground.

Most people don’t recall the devastation caused by historic droughts, said Sauchyn, who believes Albertans should lobby politicians to take better care of our water resources.

His main concern is water diversion from the North Saskatchewan and Clearwater Rivers: “How much water is available in this watershed from snow melt or glacier melt when there’s less glaciers all the time?”

In 2018, global energy company Repsol applied to the Alberta Energy regulator for a 10-year water diversion licence to remove 1.6 billion litres of water per year for fracking from the Clearwater River.

A group of area residents are opposing it.

 

Contributed photos A West Country fracking operation, with water holding tank on the right. INSET: David Sauchyn, director of the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative at the University of Regina

Contributed aerial photo of large holding tank of fresh water, to be injected into the ground for fracking operations. Industrial tanker trucks are parked on the right side of tank.

Just Posted

Protect your pets from ticks, says Sylvan Lake vet

The number of ticks in Alberta has increased, and has put people and pets in danger of Lyme disease

Innisfail Eagles win Senior AAA provincial semifinal, earn final spot in Allan Cup

For the first time in their 71-year history, the Innisfail Eagles will… Continue reading

Ford says social media allows politicians to circumvent mainstream journalists

OTTAWA — Premier Doug Ford says mainstream journalists have become irrelevant because… Continue reading

Montreal priest stabbed during mass leaves hospital; suspect to be charged

MONTREAL — A Catholic priest who was stabbed as he was celebrating… Continue reading

The endless war against invasive species

Group looks to protect native ecological environments in Alberta

WATCH: Fashion show highlights Cree designers

The fashion show was part of a Samson Cree Nation conference on MMIW

Pricey Titanic wreck tours hope to bring new life to a century-old story

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Adventure tourists with money in the bank have… Continue reading

France investigates after older protester is injured in Nice

NICE, France — French authorities are investigating the case of an older… Continue reading

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s… Continue reading

New report details impact of proposed NS spaceport in event of explosion or fire

HALIFAX — The head of a company proposing to open Canada’s only… Continue reading

Rothmans, Benson & Hedges gets creditor protection in $15B Quebec lawsuit

MONTREAL — Rothmans, Benson & Hedges has become the third tobacco company… Continue reading

Monster Energy drink recalled due to possible glass fragments

OTTAWA — Monster Energy Canada Ltd. is recalling one of its drinks… Continue reading

Global ocean group to study possible toxic splashdowns of space debris

A global agency that sets rules for the seas is studying the… Continue reading

Online real estate auctions try to shake up sales with novel approach

An online auction for a luxury home in Abbotsford, B.C., is drawing… Continue reading

Most Read