Athabasca River basin water use assessment

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  • The Athabasca River Basin contains valuable resources including timber, coal, petroleum and natural gas, and oil sands. A variety of intensive development activities are taking place and the use of water in these activities is important. In order to provide the Athabasca River Basin Planner with water use data (allocation, withdrawals, and consumption), this report identifies current and potential future water uses in the basin. The Athabasca River alone is an important source for many users. It is estimated that nearly 76 percent of all water used in the basin in 1981 was obtained from the river, 22 percent from major tributaries and other surface sources, and the remaining 2 percent from groundwater sources. The smallest water using sector in the basin is municipal use, amounting to 12.40 x 106m3 or 6 percent of total withdrawals in 1981. Consumptive uses amounted to 2.48 x 106m3 or 3 percent of total consumption. In the future, it is anticipated that municipal water use will increase as a result of population growth associated with further resource developments. Forecasts indicate that withdrawals for the sector will rise by 149 percent to 30.91 x 106m3 or 3 percent of total, and consumption to 6.18 x 106m3 by the year 2001, at which time municipal withdrawals will rank second after industrial withdrawals. The second largest water using sector currently in the basin is agricultural water use. In 1981, withdrawals and consumption were 17.71 x 106m3, comprising 9 percent of total withdrawals and 25 percent of total consumption. Water use for the sector is expected to rise by 53 percent to 27.02 x 106m3 by 2001, when it will comprise 3 percent of total withdrawals and 11 percent of total consumption. Water use in the basin is dominated by the industrial sector. Industries accounted for an estimated total 178.16 x 106m3 or 5 percent of all water withdrawn in 1981. The sector's total consumptive water use in 1981 amounted to an estimated 51.91 x 106m3 or 72 percent of total basin consumption. The two oil sands plants (Suncor and Syncrude) account for the major portion of industrial water use. A variety of industrial activities have been identified in the basin for potential development based upon natural resource availability. Beyond the year 2001, industrial water withdrawals are forecasted to rise to 1 004.15 x 106m3 and consumption to 202.40 x 106m3 if all currently identified industrial projects are developed as predicted. Total water withdrawals in the Athabasca River Basin are forecasted to rise from 208.27 x 106m3 in 1981 to 1 062.08 x 106m3 beyond the year 2001. Total water consumption is forecasted to rise from 72.10 x 106m3 in 1981 to 235.60 x 106m3 over the same period.

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