Both mining and in situ oil sands operations may potentially affect surface or groundwater quality; mining operations also create tailings ponds.
Oil sands producers are required to conduct extensive water studies as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process, and must perform ongoing monitoring of surface and groundwater resources that may be impacted by operations. Both industry and government conduct extensive monitoring to detect any effects that the development of the oil sands may have on water quality. Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development has been monitoring water quality in the oil sands region since the early 1970s.
In 2010, the Royal Society of Canada (similar to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences) commissioned an Expert Panel of Canadian Scientists to review and assess evidence relating to several perceived environmental impacts of the oil sands, including the impact of the oil sands on regional water supply.
“Current evidence on water quality impacts on the Athabasca River system suggest that oil sands development activities are not a current threat to aquatic ecosystem viability.”
Source: The Royal Society of Canada