May 8, 2018 5:35 pm
Updated: May 9, 2018 12:38 pm

Clearwater County residents concerned about proposed water diversion project in central Alberta

WATCH: Energy giant Repsol is applying to divert up to 1.8 billion cubic litres a year from the Clearwater River near Rocky Mountain House. As Sarah Offin reports, those who live in the area are worried about the amount of water, and what it will be used for.

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Over 50 people from central Alberta are banding together, trying to pressure the Alberta government to turn down an application to significantly increase commercial water diversion along the Clearwater River.

Evanthia Bosworth and her family have lived along the waterway south of Rocky Mountain House for over 45 years.

“We were so thrilled when we got the land here along the river,” Bosworth said. “We just thought it was paradise.”

But there’s concern her paradise could soon undergo dramatic changes.

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Energy giant Repsol wants to divert up to 1.8 billion litres per year for a decade, not including other temporary licences.

That’s more than four times the amount other licensed companies are currently diverting.

“We’re very distraught and afraid that our drinking water [and the aquifer] will be affected with that much water coming out of the river. It’s just unacceptable,” Bosworth said.

Jim Stelfox is a retired provincial government fish biologist who owns a riverfront cabin down the road.

He echoes his neighbours’ concerns.

“They’re proposing to withdraw up to 0.3 cubic metres a second,” Stelfox said. “The velocity being pulled across the screens is such that it can impinge mountain whitefish fry that are very poor swimmers.”

Stelfox is also worried about drinking water.

Repsol plans to use the water for fracking.

“If you frack an area where there is connection between the layer where the oil and the gas is and there are some fractures going through to where the aquifer is, you can end up having fracking fluids coming through into the aquifer,” Stelfox said. “If that happens you’ve destroyed that aquifer as far as being able to use it for well water for not just tens or hundreds of years, but literally for thousands of years.”

Repsol Canada spokesperson Trina Conroy released the following statement on Tuesday:

“Repsol is committed to a responsible and sustainable water strategy, minimizing freshwater used and investigating alternate water sourcing options. Repsol is in constant dialogue with the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) on environmental performance, actual water usage and environmental monitoring results. Repsol has been openly and transparently communicating with the AER and stakeholders and will continue to do so throughout the application process. Repsol is a global operator with a proven track record of applying the highest industry standards, often beyond legal requirements.”

AER said the application is still under review and that it considers several factors, including impacts on existing users and impacts on the aquatic environment.

Bosworth is leading the Clearwater River Coalition with over 50 residents and a legal team on board. They’re trying to pressure the province to turn down the application and urging Repsol to use recycled wastewater instead.

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