Landscape Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing Development and Operations on Surface Water and Watersheds

The study explores landscape and watershed impacts of hydraulic fracturing using a multi‐disciplinary social and natural science framework. The primary learning from our multidisciplinary approach is the need for greater institutional opportunities to integrate and coordinate a spectrum of approaches to address knowledge gaps in multiple system interactions across scales and involving system threshold effects that may be social in nature as well as biogeochemical. There is a lack of operational precedents in Canada for applying a cumulative effects approach to assessment of regional gas extraction from low permeability unconventional formations using horizontal wells with multistage hydraulic fracturing. A demonstration case study was developed for this report and fully presented in Appendix A. The purpose of the case study was to demonstrate how a simulation model (ALCES Online), in conjunction with an RSEA approach, could inform regional management of hydraulic fracturing by identifying risk and mitigation opportunities. The simulation outcomes were sensitive to uncertainties, emphasizing the importance of improved understanding of hydraulic fracturing’s impacts.