The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in a Rapidly Developing Resource Sector

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 10:20 AM
Diana M Allen and Dirk M Kirste, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Technological advances and access to global markets have changed the rate at which resource exploitation takes place. The environmental impact of the rapid development and distribution of resources such as minerals and hydrocarbons has led to a greater potential for significant stress on water resources both in terms of quality and quantity. How and where those impacts manifest is crucial to determining appropriate risk management strategies. North East British Columbia has an abundance of shale gas reserves that are anticipated to be exploited at a large scale in coming years, primarily for export as liquefied natural gas (LNG). However, there is growing concern that fracking and other activities related to shale gas development pose risks to water quality and quantity in the region. Water lies at the center of the water-energy-food nexus, with an accelerating water demand for fracking and industrial operations as well as for domestic, environmental and agricultural uses. Climate change is also anticipated to alter the hydrologic regime, posing added stress to the water resource. This case study examines the water-energy-food nexus in the context of a region that is impacted by a rapidly developing resource sector, encompassing water demand/supply, climate change, interaction between deep aquifers and shallow aquifers/surface waters, water quality concerns related to fracking, land use disturbance, and community impacts. Due to the rapid rate of development, there are significant knowledge gaps in our understanding of the water resource. Currently agencies are undertaking water resource assessments and establishing monitoring sites. This research aims to assess water security in North East British Columbia in a coordinated fashion through various partnerships. In addition to collecting baseline knowledge and data, the study will evaluate risk and resilience indicators in relation to water security. A risk assessment framework specific to the shale gas development context will be developed to evaluate the various components of risk spatially and temporally. Resilience is currently being assessed through a comprehensive examination of the current regulatory and policy regime.