The Athabasca River is our main source of fresh water. It provides about 15% of our total water needs. Water imported from this river is used to cool process water, generate steam and as potable water. The remaining 85% (87% in 2016) of water used is recycled from our settling basins, also known as tailings ponds, and used in bitumen extraction processes.
Our water license, granted to Syncrude in the 1970s, permits us to withdraw 61.7 million cubic metres of fresh water annually. In 35 years of operation, we have always operated well within these limits. Currently, we withdraw about 0.2% of the river’s average annual flow – equivalent to about 18 hours out of an entire year.