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Regional water commission suspends use of its water for fracking

With possible water shortage looming, MVRWSC tells Innisfail, Bowden, Olds, Didsbury, Carstairs and Crossfield to ensure water is used for domestic, municipal purposes
Anthony Henday Water Treatment Plant in Red Deer County. Mountain View Regional Water Services Commission photo

DIDSBURY - The Mountain View Regional Water Services Commission (MVRWSC) says the treated bulk water it produces should not be used for oil and gas field operations.

At a recent special commission meeting, board members passed a motion advising member communities that “water provided by the commission is to be used for domestic and municipal use. The commission immediately suspends any use of water for oil and gas field operations.”

One oilfield operation, called fracking, involves the injection of water down well bore holes to enhance production.

The MVRWSC owns and operates the Anthony Henday Water Treatment Plant northwest of Innisfail. It provides potable water to member municipalities Innisfail, Bowden, Olds, Didsbury, Carstairs and Crossfield.

The commission motion was moved by Didsbury town councillor Bill Windsor, the Town of Didsbury's representative on the commission. He discussed the matter further at a recent Didsbury council meeting.

“There are two reasons behind that (the commission motion),” said Windsor. “The first reason behind that is water licence out of the Red Deer River requires our water to be used for domestic purposes only, and so using it for oilfield purposes would jeopardize our licence.

“And the second reason is a philosophical thing, why are we using treated water for things like fracking and things like that, like oilfield operations?

“I would like to ratify that at the council level, that we too agree with that philosophical idea that the water that we purchase from the water commission, that is treated at the Anthony Henday (Water Treatment) Plant that it is not used for oilfield operations.”

Coun. John Baswick weighed in saying, “The water we receive is a commodity and once it reaches our door we are able to do with as we wish, whether we are selling it to oilfield or selling it to farmers.

“To me (the commission motion) borders on a restriction of commerce and you can’t do that, so I would reject that option, from the commission or otherwise.”

Mayor Rhonda Hunter said, “We are being asked not to sell water to oil and gas from commission directive. Were you aware of that?”

Baswick replied, “No and that’s unreasonable to me.”

Following the discussion, Didsbury council passed a motion that “administration return information related to the sale of treated bulk water for oilfield use to a regular council meeting in February 2024.”

Commission chairman says action needed

Town of Carstairs Mayor Lance Colby is the MVRWSC chairman.

“The request is that none of the towns supply water for fracking,” Colby told the Albertan. “The big concern right now is with the possible water shortage (in the province). We want to make sure that all of the municipalities are ensuring that water is going for domestic and municipal purposes. 

“We are going to have to, as municipalities, cut back on water so we don’t want water going out if it doesn’t have to. We are making sure the bulk water is going to the proper use.

"They've (oil and gas companies) been taking water and I don't know whether they are using it for fracking or what they are doing, but if they were, the request was that none the towns would supply water for fracking. They can apply for their own special water licence."

Asked if commission is instructing municipalities not to sell water to oil and gas companies for use in fracking, he said yes.

Rebecca Shultz, minister of Environment and Protected Area, recently sent a letter to municipalities across the region. She said “municipal leaders throughout Alberta will need to take action” to ensure water is used wisely at a time when the province is facing drought conditions.

“We are asking all water users to start planning now to use less water in 2024,” said Shultz. “I know we can count on our municipal partners to work together in the face of adversity.”

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