Exploring Future Water Demand and Climate Change Impacts on Water Availability in the Peace Region of British Columbia, Canada
In recent decades, the Peace River watershed in Northeast British Columbia (NEBC) has experienced rapid growth in shale gas development activities, resulting in significant increases in surface water and groundwater use and a growing conflict over the use and protection of these water resources. Under a high development scenario, industrial water demand in the Peace River watershed is projected to increase by over 350% by 2030, and future water security in the context of the water-energy nexus is unknown, especially with continued climate warming. In this study, hydrological models are used to simulate the current and future water balance for two headwater catchments of the Peace River watershed, one in the foothills and one in the plains. Both catchments have been impacted by the recent shale gas development, and both contain oil and gas industry water use permits. Climate variables output from three Global Climate Models were used as inputs for the hydrologic models. Water quantity projections for future decades (2020s, 2030s, 2040s, and 2050s) were then compared to the projected water use for low, medium, and high shale gas development scenarios and used to estimate the potential for water scarcity in the region. Results from this study show that areas with high levels of oil and gas industry development may experience water scarcity if rapid industrial growth continues, and improved water management policies will be needed to mitigate the high industrial water demand.
KeywordsShale gas Climate change Water security Water allocation Northeast British Columbia
This research was supported by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, a Simon Fraser University graduate entrance scholarship to Jennifer Dierauer, and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan.
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