Sustainability at Suncor

Water stewardship

Suncor believes water is a shared and precious resource that must be managed wisely, using a balanced, integrated and sustainable approach. Water is an essential part of our operations. We believe it is important to find ways to continuously improve our water use efficiency across our business.

Aligned with our purpose, we are committed to a culture of operational discipline where we manage our water use and reduce our impacts to protect the environment. We do this through:

  • Compliance and monitoring programs
  • Continuous improvement measures
  • Collaboration
  • Investment in technology and innovation

Water goal

Suncor is committed to water stewardship and we are developing a robust framework that will more meaningfully focus our future efforts on water.

In May 2019, members of the First Nations and Métis community were invited to the Lake Miwasin / Constructed Wetland Treatment System workshop. The workshop provided an opportunity for additional community input on the proposed research and monitoring projects for the community led monitoring program for the Lake Miwasin project.

When it comes to Suncor’s demonstration pit lake – Lake Miwasin – collaboration counts. Learn how we’ve bolstered our tailings technology by incorporating cultural, spiritual and community-led perspectives of the land to help us on our reclamation journey.

Water performance

In 2019, we saw improved water efficiency at Base Plant; decreased production and water use at our in situ sites; increased water withdrawal and consumption at Fort Hills; and relatively consistent operations at our refineries.

In 2019, our absolute freshwater consumption increased by 10% and freshwater consumption intensity increased by approximately 7% compared to 2018 performance, as a result of Fort Hills building up on-site water inventory that will be reused and recycled.

Fresh water consumption

million m3

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Oil Sands Base Plant 16.6 20.1 15.18 14.94 13.43
Oil Sands Fort Hills 25.28 31.38
Oil Sands In Situ 1.67 1.33 1.17 1.05 1.25
Refining and Logistics 17.28 14.41 5.1 4.35 4.62
Biofuels 0.94 0.93 0.95 0.90 0.92
Suncor total 35.9 36.8 22.4 46.52 51.60

Fresh water consumption intensity


2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Oil Sands Base Plant 0.87 1.31 0.8 0.89 0.71
Oil Sands Fort Hills 3.35 3.30
Oil Sands In Situ 0.13 0.11 0.09 0.08 0.10
Refining and Logistics 0.63 0.53 0.18 0.16 0.17
Biofuels 3.68 3.68 3.79 3.67 3.83
Suncor total 0.74 0.82 0.46 0.86 0.92

*Oil Sands Base Plant and Fort Hills in this graph do not include industrial runoff water, which is subject to annual variances based on precipitation. Withdrawal and consumption including industrial runoff volumes are shown in the performance data tables. Water measurement and estimation methodology on select Refining and Logistics operations is greater than +/- 10% uncertainty.

**Freshwater consumption intensity is the volume of fresh water consumed (m3) per volume of hydrocarbon produced (m3).

***Water consumption is the total water withdrawn minus water returned and reflects quantity of water used and not returned to its proximate source or no longer available in its original form.


We continue to work to reduce freshwater withdrawal and increase our use of recycled tailings water at our mining sites. In 2019, Base Plant freshwater withdrawal decreased by 10%. Approximately 92% of the water used by our mining and extraction operations in 2019 was recycled tailings water. At Fort Hills, absolute freshwater consumption increased by 24% due to ramp-up of production at the site and the need to build up initial water inventory. We expect water withdrawals to decline in future years.

In Situ

At our Firebag site, approximately 96% of the water used is recycled. At MacKay River, in 2019 the site had a 99.6% water recycle rate. The make-up water for our sites is drawn from recycled wastewater, surface run-off water and from groundwater wells.

Refining and Logistics

Our refineries use fresh water for heating and cooling. While water use has remained relatively flat, there have been local initiatives that have resulted in more efficient water use.

Exploration and Production

In our East Coast Canada operations, water is either produced offshore through desalination, or is transferred via vessel from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

On this page
On this page

Read more in the Report on Sustainability

Download the PDF