The Water Innovation Planning Committee (WIPC):

  • Directs Alberta Upstream Petroleum Research Fund (AUPRF) resources to projects that address water issues related to upstream oil and natural gas development, excluding oil sands development;
  • Defines and articulates key challenges for the energy sector across the water management spectrum, including water sourcing, storage, transport, treatment, recycling/reuse, and disposal;
  • Identifies shared research needs and promotes collaboration between industry, government, regulators and academia;
  • Solicits, reviews and selects project proposals, and provides technical oversight to successful projects; and
  • Promotes knowledge transfer within and outside of the energy sector.

Priority water issues include:

  • Safeguarding groundwater and surface water quantity;
  • Avoidance of groundwater and surface water contamination;
  • Enabling the use of alternative water sources to high-quality non-saline water;
  • Assembling a body of credible water data; and
  • Improving the operational business environment by generating efficiencies and cost savings in water management.

Within the context of the above priorities, WIPC champions projects in four key opportunity areas.

  • Applied research – Focused research that promotes solutions to specific water management challenges, or supports existing regulatory change initiatives.
  • Tool development – Development of innovative approaches that create operational efficiencies, support regulatory compliance, improve environmental performance, or inform decision-making.
  • Data compilation/centralization – Improved utilization of existing water quantity and quality data to support data-driven decision-making, enable effective communication of industry performance, and inform evidence-based policy.
  • Leveraged research and innovation – Leverage available funding by fostering research partnerships that advance shared water management objectives.

2016 Water Public Policy Issues and Knowledge Gaps with Associated Projects

Public Policy Issue Associated Knowledge Gap(s) Project Titles

Safeguarding groundwater and surface water quantity during development of unconventional oil and gas resources in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.


Define a consistent set of water use metrics that can be maintained year over year. This would support ongoing trend analysis and improve industry collection, reporting and communication of water use via initiatives such as the Water Conservation, Efficiency and Productivity (CEP) sector plan, CAPP Responsible Canadian Energy Program, corporate sustainability reporting, etc.
Set protocols for sustainable withdrawal from lakes.
Develop a risk-based approach to evaluating groundwater-surface water interactions.
Assess the collaboration potential (e.g., regulatory barriers, liability concerns) for water use in shale gas production, including: focus on efficiencies through water management plans; and assess water sourcing, storage and transportation alternatives.
Assess the supply and sustainability of surface and shallow groundwater in the key unconventional resource plays in AB and BC.

Avoidance of groundwater and surface water contamination during development of unconventional oil and gas resources in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin.


Develop a risk-based groundwater monitoring program strategy to assess potential physical and chemical changes to shallow potable groundwater near shale gas/tight oil developments.
Develop collaboration criteria for ESRD to track and define baseline groundwater conditions, building on a review and compilation of existing industry TDLs for groundwater withdrawals.
Investigate the potential for surface casing vent flow/groundwater migration issues to lead to stray gas leakage into non-saline aquifers. (Note: Leverage the 2002 work completed by Komex for CAPP on SCVF/GM and potential aquifer contamination. We should first investigate if fugitive gases are entering into aquifers before ramping up groundwater monitoring programs to look for the issue.) [Invited proposals from academia via the Canadian Water Network]
Assessment of alternative sources and handling of water for unconventional oil and gas development, considering the entire life cycle. Develop tool to complete environmental net effects (ENE) assessment of water source alternatives (i.e., saline, non-saline, produced water, flowback, reclaimed wastewater and low quality groundwater) for hydraulic fracturing, in support of the Water Conservation Policy for Upstream Oil and Gas Operations.
Identify regulatory and operational challenges of reusing produced water and flowback in Alberta (e.g., reclassifying produced water and flowback as a resource instead of a waste).
Conduct a regulatory review to identify gaps/barriers to efficient use of saline and low quality non-saline groundwater, including the regulatory requirements for exploration of these aquifers (i.e., mineral rights, gas concentration, water royalties).
Conduct a pilot-scale analysis to prove up various produced water and flowback treatment technologies with the goal of decreasing handling costs.
Review and understand the alternatives to deep well disposal (excluding link with induced seismicity).
Define low quality groundwater (alternative water) sources to support the 2015 Water Conservation Policy.
Review data and determine ability to accurately forecast produced water volumes from the Montney to construct a water balance and drive disposal / supplementary supply demand.