Not Just a License to Drill: Exploring the challenges of water governance and hydraulic fracturing in Canada

Principal Investigator - Michele-Lee Moore, Assistant Professor, University of Victoria, 2014 - 2015

With hydraulic fracturing activity increasing in several provinces, and the potential for additional development in others, governance processes that ensure responsible decision-making about surface and groundwater are urgently needed. While varied across provinces, current water governance systems for hydraulic fracturing share a limitation: they were not designed to address complex issues that involve multiple actors and long-term watershed health. Water allocation regulations, in particular, do not adequately address the cumulative effects of project approvals, or adequately include community stakeholders or Indigenous Nations rights, resulting in a governance environment fraught with conflict and uncertainty. In response, this project will synthesize current knowledge across key regions and actor groups to identify priority decision challenges and potential research approaches that could be used to address these concerns.


The proposed project will focus on two main approaches to identifying priority water governance challenges for decision-makers, industry, and Indigenous Nations. Using the Delphi method, a systematic, interactive forecasting method that relies on a panel of experts, the first approach will establish a consensus about the challenges related to water governance and hydraulic fracturing and associated knowledge gaps. Meanwhile, a targeted workshop will focus on assessing key water governance challenges related to hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and the Atlantic provinces. Through these processes, a strong, diverse, cross-sectoral network will be developed that can identify clear priorities for water governance and hydraulic fracturing in Canada. A Regional Snapshot report will be completed after the workshop to integrate knowledge from across a variety of regions, scales and sectors and from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures to offer clear direction on research priorities and possible approaches.

  • Delphi study results: will establish a consensus among various levels of government, Indigenous nations, industry, water suppliers, academia, and environmental nongovernmental organizations about priority challenges for decision-making.
  • Water governance workshop: will assess key water governance challenges related to hydraulic fracturing in various provinces/territories
  • Regional Snapshot 2014 – Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Governance Challenges Report: will identify the priority challenges for the governance of hydraulic fracturing and water in Canada, covering three areas: i) current knowledge and research approaches used in identifying priority areas for decision-making; ii) knowledge gaps that may be preventing these challenges from being addressed; iii) research approaches that could be used to address these knowledge gaps
  • Assist with development of new governance platforms with the province and industry
  • Improve understanding about potential impacts from hydraulic fracturing, as well as provide information on water governance frameworks that reflect Indigenous knowledge and the need to protect land and treaty rights.
  • Build on previous work on the water-energy nexus; inform local communities in which partner organizations work
Moore HF 288

research team and partners:

Research Team

Michele-Lee Moore, Assistant Professor, University of Victoria
Karena Shaw, Associate Professor, University of Victoria
Heather Castleden, Associate Professor, Queen's University


Robert Summers, Assistant Professor, University of Alberta
Peter Clancy, Professor, St. Francis Xavier University
Alice Cohen, Assistant Professor, Acadia University
Cathy Conrad, Associate Professor, St. Mary’s University
Margot Parkes, Associate Professor, University of Northern British Columbia
Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq
Fort Nelson First Nation Lands Department
POLIS Water Sustainability Project
GW Solutions Inc
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, BC Branch
Pembina Institute


 2015 Moore report cover hydraulic fracturing