Imperial continues to lead the development of the Oil Sands Mining Water Management Agreement under the SWQMF. The agreement is submitted annually to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Alberta Environment and Parks, and the Alberta Energy Regulator.
The primary objectives of the Kearl Water Management Plan are to use surface water and groundwater responsibly; limit potential environmental effects on the receiving waters; and facilitate reliable access to suitable water supply.
Water management at Kearl includes:
- manage industrial runoff, industrial wastewater and groundwater per approvals;
- release water to the environment in accordance with regulatory requirements;
- reduce or prevent water originating in undisturbed areas from entering the industrial wastewater control system, where and when practical;
- utilize surface and groundwater responsibly to facilitate safe and efficient construction, operation and closure of the Kearl Mine.
To support these key objectives Imperial:
- staged its water license to align with the development of the mine and mine water requirements;
- optimized water withdrawal rates from the Athabasca River and reduced effects on receiving water quality by diverting and maximizing the use of on-site process affected water;
- maintains a contingency water inventory on-site in the event of withdrawal restrictions from the Athabasca River; and,
- reduced potential hydrologic effects on receiving waters by releasing unaffected surface water and non-saline groundwater, where practical.
As a result, currently about 80 percent of the water used at Kearl is recycled process affected water rather than new freshwater.