Interim report on a hydrogeological investigation of the Muskeg River basin, Alberta

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  • The Muskeg River in northeast Alberta drains a large highland area east of the Athabasca River. The availability of thick, oil sands deposits at depths less than 30 m in parts of the watershed makes this area an obvious candidate for future mining development. The results of this detailed, chemically-based study of waters from major portions of the hydrologic cycle--precipitation, surface water, and groundwater, in addition to providing descriptive details of pre-mining baseline states has provided useful information about groundwater and surface water processes in the watershed. Baseflow, as it is known in streams in the southern part of the province, probably exists during a few winter months when standing water in muskeg and shallow lakes is frozen and ceases to contribute to streamflow. During times of the year when the muskegs are unfrozen they constitute the bulk of the streamflow. The results of chemically-based hydrograph separation techniques indicate that 12 to 40.% of streamflow during the late spring, summer and fall months consists of groundwater with the remainder coming from lake and muskeg drainage, as well as direct precipitation on the stream channels. This preliminary report will form a basis for more detailed evaluation on systems in the Muskeg River basin.

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