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NEWS: Oil and gas companies have water access restricted in dry Peace River region

The Vancouver Sun reports that, “The Peace River region is suffering the worst drought in 20 years and dwindling water supplies have forced officials in Dawson Creek (located about 700 kilometres northeast of Vancouver) to impose water restrictions on nearly 13,000 residents. …Effective (August 18), all residents will be forbidden to use water outside their homes, including watering their lawns and washing their cars and they will be asked to conserve potable water.”

“(Dawson Creek mayor Mike) Bernier said the oil and gas companies in the area use 25 per cent of the city’s water supply and will also be forbidden to use of potable water for industrial use.”

“The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission issued a directive on Aug. 11 to all industry clients in the Peace River Region to suspend drawing water from four major rivers in the region. The directive, posted on its website, says the area has suffered a ‘severe summer drought’ and the suspension will be lifted when the drought ends.” (“The Oil and Gas Commission grants short-term water withdrawal permits. Longer-term water-use activities require authorization from the B.C. environment ministry.” An article in the Tyee.ca explains, “While the Ministry of Environment oversees the majority of water extractions in B.C., the province’s Water Act and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Act allow the OGC to to approve some water access for surface and subsurface sources.”)

The Montreal Gazette reports that, “Alex Ferguson, the B.C. Oil and Gas commissioner, said the suspension covers about 20 operators in the four watersheds. Most are not using much water right now.” An earlier Vancouver Sun article reported that, “Natural gas explorers use water during drilling operations, and water is of particular value for deep underground formations such as shale, which are fractured using high-pressure injections of drilling fluids to release gas. The industry has access to hundreds of public and private water sites across the province.”

“Meantime, the B.C. Environment Ministry says many streams are at or near record low water levels. In the North, the Liard River and the Skeena Rivers are at a 20-year lows, while the Bulkley River is at a 10-year low. The Cariboo region is also dry with the Quesnel and Horsefly rivers at 10 to 20-year lows, while flows along the Fraser River are at a 10-year low. Other dry areas include Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, the Central Interior and the Okanagan. On Vancouver Island, rivers of concern are the Tsolum River, which is well below average streamflow and Tofino Creek, which is slightly below average.”

The Globe and Mail reported on August 10 that, “According to (the provincial ministry of environment’s) website, the Peace, Liard and Skeena regions have been classified as Drought Level 3, which would indicate ‘concern for fish and water supplies, unless significant rainfall occurs.'”

The news articles can be read at http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Drought+grips+Peace+River+region/3415228/story.html, http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/canada/Peace+River+water+levels+suspend+LaCrete+ferry/3391632/story.html, http://www.vancouversun.com/Drought+prompts+suspension+water+permits/3393746/story.html, http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Labour-Industry/2010/08/13/WaterRestrictions/, and http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/dry-bc-summer-puts-fish-stocks-in-jeopardy-government-warns/article1668807/.