Water -- An Election Issue
to Protect the
Well-digging taking place near the Clearwater River.
Residents of Clearwater County in Alberta have been
a fight to protect the Clearwater River, a tributary of the North
Saskatchewan River which supplies drinking water for the
prairies. The Clearwater River is located near Rocky Mountain
House in central Alberta.
The global energy giant Repsol Oil and Gas Inc. applied to the Alberta
Regulator (AER) in March 2018 for a 10 year licence to divert up
to 1.8 billion litres of water per year, not including other
temporary licences from the Clearwater River. The water will be
used for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with 280 wells drilled
over 18 years. This is more water than the total amount used by
all current fracking operations in the county, residents point
Organizers of the group formed to protect the water
that their community was not even notified about the application
because they were not considered "direct stakeholders." This
shows how the conception of public interest has been stripped
from legislation governing the regulatory bodies, and the
arbitrary powers of the regulator to decide when and whom to
inform of an application before it.
Two women who have lived in the area for many years
knock on doors and inform their neighbours when they became
aware of Repsol's application. As a result of their efforts, more
than fifty residents came together to oppose the application, and
to urge the province to require Repsol to use recycled
Organizers stress that they are uniting in action
of their "political stripe" to protect an important water supply
and aquifer. They explain that they are not opposing the oil and
gas industry, and indeed include people who have worked in the
industry all their lives. "I never said I was against oil. I just
know that we can't live without fresh water," one activist
The regulator dismissed the residents' concerns and
Repsol's application in January 2019. Alberta Environment
defended the decision, stating that "water diversion licences are
granted to applicants when sufficient water is available to meet
both ecosystem requirements and the rights of existing licence
The term "water diversion" is extremely misleading.
water used for fracking is injected deep into the ground to
displace the oil and gas that is being drilled and most of the
water remains there. A study conducted at the University of
Alberta and funded by Natural Resources Canada concluded that
most water used in fracking is not recovered. The study states,
"It was determined that up to 30 per cent of water injected during
hydraulic fracturing can be recovered to the surface after
flowback operations. The remaining water appears to be trapped in
the rock matrix and complex fracture network."
At minimum, 70 per cent of the fresh
used will not be recovered.
This is what is so concerning to residents. The water is
only being withdrawn from the river, but from hydrologic cycle. Water that does
to the surface is contaminated with fracking fluid and very
expensive to remediate. This water is hazardous to humans if it
contaminates drinking water, as well as to aquatic life.
Clearwater residents are continuing and expanding their
and speaking to other communities in Alberta to alert people to
the dangers and the need to protect the water supply for the
prairies. Most recently, citizens active in the Clearwater
Coalition made a presentation sponsored by the Warburg Pembina
Surface Rights Group in Warburg, a community southwest of
Fracking and Earthquakes
Another serious concern about fracking is that it is
causing small and medium-sized earthquakes. Repsol shut down its
fracking operations near Fox Creek in 2016 due to a 4.6 magnitude
earthquake caused by hydraulic fracturing near a fault system which was
not previously identified. Hundreds of small and moderately-sized
earthquakes have taken place in the Fox Creek area in recent years
since fracking operations began.
A study published in the journal Science, shows that
earthquakes can continue to occur months after fracking has stopped,
occurrences which are not addressed anywhere in Alberta
"Balancing the Economy and the Environment"
The energy regulator has
made the well-worn claim that it is
balancing the economy and the environment. In fact neither the
problems of the economy or the need to defend Mother Earth are
The outlook that taking care of Mother Earth including
and development of the socialized economy are innately in
conflict is nonsense. Humanity is part of nature, not separate.
Humans depend on nature and through work, transform nature to
serve their needs. But the relationship between humans and nature
is reduced to what the oligopolies like Repsol have decided suits
their private interest and motive for maximum private profit.
The stranglehold of the oligarchs over decision-making
motive of production for private profit is harmful to humans and
to Mother Earth. Both Mother Earth and human beings who are part
of nature require a solution to this problem. The block is the
domination by the financial oligarchy and capitalist system under
which Mother Earth and human beings become collateral damage to
greed and the pursuit of private interests.
The people must become the decision-makers and set the
direction of the economy in a manner that protects the
environment and affirms the right to be of the peoples of the
1. Repsol Oil and Gas
Canada Inc. is a subsidiary of the Spanish global corporation
Repsol S.A. Originally known as B.P. Canada Ltd., the company was
renamed Talisman Energy when B.P. sold off its majority ownership
in a public offering. Talisman became one of Canada's largest
independent oil and gas companies. In turn, Talisman was bought
out by Repsol for approximately U.S.$13 billion in 2015. Repsol had
net income of CDN $2.319 billion in the first half of 2018.
2. Understanding the Fate of
Non-recovered Fracturing Water and the Source of Produced Salts
for Optimizing Fracking Operations, University of Alberta, 2017,
Natural Resources Canada.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary
defines the hydrologic cycle as:
"the sequence of conditions through which water passes from
vapour in the atmosphere through precipitation upon land or water
surfaces and ultimately back into the atmosphere as a result of
evaporation and transpiration."
This article was published in
Volume 49 Number
13 - April 13, 2019
Protect the Clearwater River