Lower Athabasca River Water Management Framework

A framework for addressing cumulative water withdrawals

The Project

The Lower Athabasca River as a critical source of water for oil sands mining in Alberta. Water withdrawals from the river by the mining industry and their potential impacts on the aquatic ecosystem have been an issue of concern and debate for several years. Federal and provincial agencies established a multi-stakeholder committee to develop recommendations for a Phase 2 Water Management Framework that would prescribe when, and how much, water can be withdrawn from the Lower Athabasca River for cumulative oil sands mining water use. Participants included federal and provincial governments, the mining industry, aboriginal groups and environmental organizations.

Our Role

Compass was hired to design and lead a Structured Decision Making process against a background of contentious political circumstances. The process took a consistent, rigorous and principled approach to the treatment of all objectives, including economic, environmental, social and Aboriginal interests. The approach enabled the transparent development and evaluation of alternatives, including explicit analyses of trade-offs that were used as the basis for value-based discussions. The outcome from the planning process is contained, unmodified, in Alberta government’s Surface Water Quantity Management Framework for the Lower Athabasca River.