10.4 billion litres of freshwater per year to be required for B.C. fracked gas production

December 1, 2022
Stand.earth’s new report highlights urgent need to revise fracking’s free pass for water

Unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-waututh) First Nations (VANCOUVER) – The oil and gas sector in B.C. took 5.2 billion litres of freshwater permanently out of the water cycle last year to support hydraulic fracturing, paying a total of just $8,000 in water rent, found Stand.earth’s new analysis Fracking with Freshwater.

“Oil and gas is the only industry in B.C. that is permitted to extract freshwater, poison it, and then dispose of it, untreated, because toxicity levels are so high that it cannot be safely returned to the water cycle,” says Sven Biggs Stand.earth’s Canadian Oil and Gas Program Director.

The four policy recommendations in Fracking with FreshwaterHow the fracking industry in B.C. is poisoning billions of litres of water and how to stop it, call for ending special treatment that allows the oil and gas industry to access limitless volumes of freshwater outside of the oversight of the Ministry of Environment And Climate Change Strategy; treating fracking waste as hazardous waste; protecting groundwater aquifers through baseline testing; and charging a fair price for access to water.

Over the next five to twenty years, freshwater usage by the oil and gas industry is projected to double to 10.4 billion litres per year – equivalent to 4,160 Olympic swimming pools – in tandem with projected increases in gas production, through fracking, in order to feed the five proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) projects on the West Coast.

Fracking, which uses between five million and 30 million litres of water per well, was used in 91 percent of gas production in B.C. last year. It is a water-intensive drilling technique that mixes water, chemicals, and sand that is pumped underground at high pressure to release small pockets of gas trapped in shale formations by cracking the rock.

The oil and gas industry receives licences to withdraw water for fracking from the BC Oil and Gas Commission. It charges $2.25 in water rent for every million litres of water withdrawn from B.C. reservoirs, with water often derived from the Peace and Mackenzie watersheds.

“Historically the oil and gas industry used relatively little water. That all changed in 2005 when fracking was introduced to the province, but laws and regulations have not kept pace,” says Kiki Wood, Senior Oil & Gas Campaigner for Stand.earth. “It’s time to end the special treatment the big oil and gas companies get in B.C.” 

Stand.earth’s four policy recommendations to protect one of B.C.’s most important natural resources from the harms of fracking, include:

  1. Putting the Ministry of Environment’s Water Stewardship Branch in charge of all access to water, ending special treatment for the fracking industry with approvals for free water, with no limits on volumes.
  2. Treating fracking waste as hazardous waste, requiring industry to treat wastewater through industrial wastewater facilities. This requires the B.C. government to put oil and gas operators under the Environmental Management Act, with oversight from the Environmental Protection Division, rather than situating them under the BC Oil and Gas Commission.
  3. Protecting groundwater aquifers by conducting baseline testing of water systems impacted by oil and gas, especially those surrounding the disposal wells, and conducting on-going monitoring of these water systems.
  4. Charging a fair price for access to water, where licences recognize that fracking contaminates water, and it must be completely removed from the water cycle.

“British Columbia stands at a crossroads. A new Premier is coming to power when important decisions need to be made about a massive expansion of fracking, and how best to address climate change,” says Biggs. “Now is the time for our government to take a hard look at this industry and the risks it poses to our water, health, and future.”  



Media contacts: 

Allison Murray, Communications Associate, allison@MurrayCommunications.org, +1 604 442 1846 (Pacific Time)

Ziona Eyob, Media Director – Canada, canadamedia@stand.earth, +1 604 757 7279 (Pacific Time)