Testing Water Wells in Proximity to Oil and Gas Well Drilling

Res #: 23-23M
Number: 23
Year: 2023
Midterm: Yes
Expired: No
Responses Received: Yes
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources

WHEREAS there are currently no legislative requirements for oil and gas companies to test residential water wells in proximity to oil and gas well drilling sites.

WHEREAS when oil is extracted deep from the earth’s surface, it must pass through aquifers closer to ground level. In most cases, there is a layer of cement around the well’s casing to prevent leaking, but sometimes the casing is not always intact and carcinogens can seep into the water supply.

WHEREAS there are previous instances where personal water wells have been contaminated by compounds that originate from oil and gas wells.

BE IT RESOLVED that SARM lobby the Ministry of Energy and Resources to create mandatory regulations for oil and gas companies to test personal water wells within 1.6 kilometers of a proposed oil and gas well, to determine a base line of the quality of the water well, prior to the oil or gas company drilling the new well.

Responses From: Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and Resources

December 18, 2023

ER Field Services staff occasionally receive inquiries from landowners raising a concern that their water well has been impacted by drilling operations; however, no evidence has been found in relation to current drilling practice to show an impact on off-set water wells. There have also been concerns raised to ER in association to hydraulic fracturing operations and potential water well impacts. Conducted reviews have not identified fracturing to have an impact on the off-setting water wells.

For drilling operations, the surface portion of the hole is drilled with fresh water and drilling mud to protect any potable zone potentially drilled through and further isolation is ensured with surface casing and cement. Requirements are set out in ER’s Directive PNG 048: Hydraulic Fracturing, which requires water well testing prior to operation of a hydraulic fracture. The area of consideration associated to the fracture planning zone of the subject well varies but averages at 150-200 metres from the well. The requirement for testing is contingent on the water well owner allowing for testing.

Current drilling practice is deemed sufficient in protection of potable zones. ER will continue to monitor the situation, but at this time is not considering a requirement for additional testing of water wells in proximity oil and gas drilling. Complaints occur rarely and no contamination has been identified.

The Honourable Jim Reiter – Minister of Energy and Resources, Saskatchewan Ministry of Energy and  Resources