Water security within Dawson Creek has been called the number one priority by the City. However, any future plans for water security will have to take into account the oil and gas industry's current water licensing from Kiskatinaw River, which during the last nine months of 2012 amounted to about 45 per cent of the water licensed to the City of Dawson Creek for its residents.
This type of water use will only increase in the coming years, according to Matt Horne, the director of the B.C. Energy Solutions program for the environmental advocacy organization the Pembina Institute.
"We would be much better served if we had these conversations earlier," he said. "There's an expectation from companies that they can have these waters."
Under provincial law, the B.C. Ministry of Forestry, Land, and Natural Resource Operations issues water licences, which allow companies, municipalities, provincial ministries, and individuals to use water from a water source.
According to a quarterly report issued by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), the provincial regulator for the industry, oil and gas companies were licensed to use approximately 1.5 million cubic metres of water from the Kiskatinaw River from April until the end of 2012.
Of this amount licensed, however, only a small percentage of this was actually used by industry. According to the OGC's report, approximately 44,000 cubic metres was withdrawn, or about one per cent of their licensed water. According to the Sierra Club of Texas, an average swimming pool takes between 18,000 to 20,000 gallons of water to fill.
In comparison, the Dawson Creek had been allotted a water license of approximately 3.3 million cubic metres for citizens to wash themselves, water their lawns, or use water in other ways, according to Kevin Henderson, the city's director of infrastructure and sustainable development. He said that the city used approximately 2.4 million cubic metres of its water license, or about 73 per cent of its allotment.
The City provided 325,000 cubic metres for industry to use, or about 10 per cent of its water throughout the year, albeit at a higher rate than it would charge to its residents, he added.
However, the OGC notes in its report that the total approved for short-term water use by industry "is a small fraction of the mean annual runoff."
The mean annual runoff is the amount of water that runs over a land surface in a year that can be used during a year.
The Kiskatinaw River's mean annual runoff was 327 million cubic metres of water.
Compared to other provincial rivers, the percentage of water allotted to industry was higher than others. Approximately 0.47 per cent of the Kiskatinaw River was approved for industrial use from April until the end of 2012. This is second only to the Petitot River, which had 0.51 per cent of its water allotted for industrial use. The Petitot is located close to Fort Nelson, which has seen a high amount of industrial activity in recent years.
The total amount withdrawn by industry was also the third highest in the province when compared to other rivers. According to the OGC report, about 0.013 per cent of the mean annual runoff for the Kiskatinaw was withdrawn for industrial uses. Next up was the Fort Nelson River, which had 0.014 per cent of its mean annual runoff withdrawn for industrial uses, and the Petitot River, which had 0.06 per cent of its water withdrawn.
For specific portions of rivers, however, the East Kiskatinaw River had the highest amount, with 0.8 per cent of its water allotted to be withdrawn for industrial uses.
The issues between industrial and municipal water use recently caused a stir at a council meeting last week.
One attendee said she was distressed to see industrial trucks taking water out of the Kiskatinaw River.
"The Kiskatinaw is the best example where a river system can be stressed," added Horne.
Horne noted that the Kiskatinaw also has to provide water to agricultural users, and some companies do not have to report how much water they take.
"At some point you're going to pass thresholds," he added. "The process seems to be pretty backwards."