Winter20Water20Sampling

Syncrude researchers trek through kilometres of snow as part of annual survey

Apr 17, 2019

Syncrude annually conducts a variety of reclamation research studies and one of the largest is our snow survey. The Snow Survey Field Program quantifies snow depth, snow quality and snow chemistry across reclaimed sites. With snow shoes and sample jars in hand, Syncrude staff and contractors head out to collect snow samples and record snow measurements just before the start of spring.

The teams use a special ‘snow corer’ that pushes through the snow to the ground below. When the corer is retrieved, a circular snow ‘core’ specimen is then analyzed.  These snow surveys can take about two weeks to complete, with teams of two covering five to 10 kilometres of snow covered reclamation per day.

“Understanding the water balance allows us to understand and predict long term performance of our reclamation sites,” says Jessica Piercey, Associate - Environmental, Research and Development. “We are committed to the ongoing monitoring of reclamation to make sure we are meeting and exceeding expectations. This is why snow surveys are an important part of the reclamation monitoring process.”

The Technology Development and Mine Closure Research teams work hard to figure out how much water comes from snow when it melts, and then where that water goes.

“Is it absorbed into the ground for the trees to use in the forests? Or does it run off and provide water to wetlands and pit lakes? These are the kind of questions the annual snow survey tries to answer,” says Jessica.

Approximately half of the annual precipitation that our region receives falls in winter. Understanding how much snow has fallen, and what that represents in terms of available water is very important to understand the performance of our reclamation at Syncrude.