Managing Water

Protecting water is a priority for industry.

Wetlands Dawson Creek Reclaimed Water Project Natural Gas

Water and drilling fluids transportation and handling

Protecting water during sourcing, transportation, handling, storage and disposal of fluids is a priority for industry. Fluids include: fracturing fluids, produced water, flowback water and fracturing fluid wastes. Hydraulic fracturing fluid is comprised primarily of water and sand (~98.5%) and a small amount of additives (~1.5%).

Moving water during resource development is done carefully so that surface water and groundwater sources are protected.

Industry conforms to all regulations, including federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, when transporting fracturing fluids, produced water and flowback.

Water storage

Generally, there are three types of storage used for water during hydraulic fracturing operations:

  • Unlined pits - the ground is excavated to create a dugout to store fresh water.
  • Lined pits (geo-synthetic) - the ground is excavated to create a dugout and lined with impermeable geosynthetic materials to store flowback or drilling fluids while protecting the environment. In order to protect waterfowl and other wildlife from coming into contact with this water, wire fencing is often used to cover the pit and brightly coloured flagging on the fence perimeter acts as a deterrent.
  • C-ring tanks - Large on site tanks used to store flowback, produced, or fresh water separately.

When hydraulic fracturing operations are complete, the fluids that return to the surface are called flowback. The flowback contains the water originally used hydraulic fracturing operations, along with the additives, and any naturally occurring fluids found in the underground rock formation. The water found in the deep underground rock formations is called produced water. Produced water is not suitable for domestic use.

Operators reuse the produced and flowback water whenever practicable. This requires the flowback and produced water to be stored until it’s used again. To protect freshwater from coming into contact with produced water and flowback, freshwater is generally stored in an unlined pit or in C-ring tanks. The produced and flowback water is stored separately in either lined pits or C-ring tanks.

Disposal of wastewater and drilling fluids

When a well is completed and ready for production, the remaining produced water, flowback and fracturing or drilling fluids must be disposed in a safe and environmentally responsible way. Following regulations and industry best practices prevents wastewater and drilling fluids from coming into contact with groundwater, surface water or the land.

In most cases, unusable and/or excess flowback is disposed of in a licensed disposal well through a process called deep-well injection. The practice of deep-well injection is highly regulated in Alberta and British Columbia. Some operators may also dispose of flowback and produced water at industrial disposal facilities in compliance with applicable provincial regulations.


In addition to following regulations for hydraulic fracturing operations, water use and water protection, Canada’s natural gas industry is guided by CAPP’s Guiding Principles for Hydraulic Fracturing and Operating Practices.