+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 2-13S

Natural Resources Exploration

April 3, 2013
Expiry Date:
March 31, 2016
Active Status:
Wheatland County
2 - Central
Industry and Resource Development
Accepted in Part
Vote Results:

WHEREAS the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) is an independent, quasi-judicial agency of the Government of Alberta that regulates the safe, responsible, and efficient development of Alberta’s energy resources: oil, natural gas, oil sands, coal, and pipelines; and WHEREAS in 2008, the ERCB launched the Provincial Groundwater Inventory Program to map and inventory groundwater resources in Alberta. To date, minimal mapping in the rural areas of Alberta has been completed; and WHEREAS current Alberta regulations require that natural resource development provide an extensive barrier, both vertically and laterally, between any shallow stimulation interval and existing water wells, in addition to isolating the aquifer and the fractured zone, and industry must self-report to the ERCB Environment Group if non-saline groundwater is encountered below 600 metres; and WHEREAS there is a growing scale of concern on natural resource exploration processes, specifically hydraulic fracturing, and their impacts on dri

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Province of Alberta to: 

1.Take all necessary steps to ensure natural resource exploration does not pose a threat to our environment; and

2.Require industry report, prior to the commencement of natural resource exploration an evaluation of the geologic conditions and pre and post monitoring for seismic activity; and

3.Require the mapping of all aquifers prior to any natural resource exploration; and

4.Protect surface and groundwater supply by imposing a minimum wellbore casing depth below aquifer zones.

Member Background:

The Province of Alberta comprises of a vast variety of geological formations. Over the past number of years, the oil and gas industry has increased its natural resource exploration. Specifically there has been a significant increase in coal bed methane (CBM) operations and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The fracturing of deep rock formations with water, sand and chemicals is a non-linear process that can open fractures to freshwater formations as well as other oil and gas wells. Also in the absence of public reporting on fracking chemicals, industry water withdrawals and full mapping of the province’s aquifers, rapid shale gas development could potentially threaten important water resources. An example is the Horn River Basin in British Columbia that has a distinctive geology and hydraulic fracturing that has caused rare and minor seismic activity.   Subsequent to natural resource exploration and activities, concerns have been received from landowners reporting a decline in their water levels and contaminat

RMA Background:

1-11F: Cessation of Fresh Water Use by Oil and Gas Industry THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC request the Government of Alberta implement an immediate reduction schedule leading to the cessation of the use of fresh water to the oil and gas industry for the hydro-fracking and water injection process in all areas of Alberta as fresh water is required for human consumption. 17-10F: Regulation of Geothermal Drilling Industry THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to conduct more research, provide more education and, where appropriate, introduce regulation (legislation) to ensure geothermal activity is not at the expense of other environmental considerations.

Government Response:


The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) have strong regulations in place designed to protect groundwater. 

In December 2012, the ERCB released Regulating Unconventional Oil and Gas in Alberta-a Discussion Paper (URF).  The URF describes a potential unconventional oil and gas regulatory framework for managing development and associated hydraulic fracturing activities.  Integral to the URF are play-based development plans prepared by a group of operators within a play, putting an increased emphasis on planning and collaboration to reduce water-use and surface disturbance.

The ERCB also has strict wellbore construction regulations (Directives 8 and 9) to prevent any fluid (hydrocarbons, hydraulic fracturing fluid) in the wellbore from mixing with groundwater or surface water resources.  ESRD and the Alberta Energy Regulator have mapped a “base of groundwater protection” which is the depth at which groundwater transitions from non-saline (fresh) to saline.  Surface casing must be cemented full length to surface, and if it does not extend below the “base of groundwater protection”, the next casing string must be cemented full length to surface.  This requirement ensures a barrier between the wellbore and nearby water sources.  In addition, operators must only use non-toxic fracture fluids when fracturing above the “base of groundwater protection”.

On May 21, 2013, the ERCB released Directive 83: Hydraulic Fracturing- Subsurface Integrity that requires the identification of non-saline aquifers and risk evaluation (including consideration of geologic features) when operations are planned in proximity to non-saline groundwater resources.

ESRD recently conducted a Water Conversation with Albertans, which took place in various communities across the province throughout February and March.  Hydraulic fracturing was one of the focus areas.  To further strengthen water conservation and protection, ESRD is working with the ERCB to revise the 2006 Water Conservation and Allocation Guideline for Oilfield Injection and Standard for Baseline Water-Well Testing for Coalbed Methane/Natural Gas in Coal Operations.

As mentioned in the AAMDC resolution materials provided, the Provincial Groundwater Inventory Program was launched in 2008.  ESRD is working with the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) to map and inventory groundwater resources in the province.  This long-term program will eventually result in the mapping of all provincial groundwater resources.  The program is currently targeting high-priority areas experiencing rapid growth.  The inventory program started with the pilot Edmonton-Calgary Corridor project.  Results of this work were released in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor Groundwater Atlas in November 2011.  Environment and Sustainable Resource Development also commissioned an airborne geophysical survey in the South Saskatchewan River Basin in February 2011, and the compilation of previous mapping data for the Cold Lake-Beaver River Basin into a groundwater atlas is also underway.  Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and the AGS are also partnering with industry to inventory surface and groundwater resources in areas of emerging unconventional resource development.

In 2009, the AGS initiated the Induced Seismicity Project to document both natural and induced (or triggered) seismic events in Alberta.  Through this network, ERCB is able to detect, locate and, if needed, respond to and investigate seismic activity or complaints associated with oil and gas activity.  To date, there has been no demonstrated evidence in Alberta of induced seismicity causing harm to the public, workers, property or structures, or surface and groundwater resources. 

Environment and Sustainable Resource Development:

Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) provided detailed input to Energy so that it could provide a comprehensive response to this resolution. ESRD has no further information to provide.


The government’s response summarizes a number of policies already in place to support clauses 1 and 4 of the resolution. The response also notes the work being done related to mapping of groundwater (clause 3); however, this long-term project is still underway as the province currently focuses on high development areas.

In February 2015, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) released new seismic and monitoring requirements for hydraulic fracturing operators in Fox Creek which mandates that operators must monitor for seismic activity within five kilometers of their wells if hydraulic fracturing operations are being conducted. In addition, operators must have a response plan in place to address potential events and must follow a process with staged action thresholds.

The AER monitors seismic activity across Alberta using the Regional Alberta Observatory for Earthquakes Studies Network and networks operated by Natural Resources Canada, the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology and the University of Western Ontario. Data collected from these stations are also used to document natural and induced earthquakes which are compiled into a comprehensive earthquake catalogue, or seismic database for Alberta. The Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) website offers general seismic activity and the Alberta Earthquake Studies Project. The Government of Alberta, through the AER and AGS, is working with various public and private sector research organizations towards furthering understanding of the linkages between resource development and induced seismicity.

Based on the government response and associated actions, the AAMDC deems this resolution to be Accepted in Part. While the government has initiated the Alberta Earthquake Studies Project, it still serves as an educational study, not a mandatory function of industry.

Provincial Ministries:
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
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