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The Oil and Gas Commission officially announced Wednesday that it is suspending water removal from the river basins within the Peace River watershed.

The area around the Peace River has experienced drought conditions over much of the summer .

The rivers where water removal is immediately suspended are the Kiskatinaw River, Pine River, Halfway River, and Moberly River.

The announcement follows the release of the OGC’s first report on Oil and Gas Water Use in British Columbia.

The report collected water use data from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010 from oil and gas operations across the province.

OGC Commissioner Alex Ferguson says the report was done after the OGC had seen increased fresh water use by the oil and gas industry.

The commission wanted to create a baseline of water usage and create public awareness of the facts around water usage in the industry.

Furthermore, he added that similar studies will probably be completed on an annual basis.

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Ferguson says the report found the amount of water used by the industry is not as significant when compared to other industries such as agriculture, pulp mills, or domestic water use.

The report shows the biggest areas in which water is licensed for use in B.C.

Although it does not account for the actual amount used, the communities and domestic supply are the biggest licensed users at more than 1.8 million cubic decameters (34 per cent of total) and the second biggest are pulp mills at more than 1.5 million dam3 (25 percent).

Oil and gas activities are licensed for more than 86,000 dam3 (approximately one per cent) of the province’s total.

Ferguson says a large portion was allocated to the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson, where there is a shale play but that only five per cent of the total amount allocated was actually used. However, he adds that water use in that area is almost certainly going to increase.

Some of the factors influencing how much water is needed to access and remove the oil and gas can depend on the subsurface rocks, sand and the drilling techniques.

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Ferguson says the OGC works with the Ministry of the Environment to monitor water conditions and levels, particularly considering the current drought conditions in much of B.C

Nonetheless, he says even with the implementation of the water removal ban, there is not much activity that is occurring in the area at this time of year, so not much of the industry will actually be affected.

The full report can be viewed below.

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