Water, Land, and Energy in Alberta

Alberta is known for many things: Rocky Mountains, flat prairies, and one of the world’s largest sites of unconventional oil extraction, the oilsands or tarsands. Over the past 15 years, this project has examined the intersections of water, energy and empire in Alberta. It is a place where the circulation of ideas and policies about globalization, colonialism, economics, and technology have been applied and reworked, experimented with and abandoned.

In Alberta, the intersections of water and energy meet from several directions, such as from its large irrigation economy in the south and policies designed to encourage western settlers to take up farming, to a burgeoning energy sector in the north that requires large water inputs in very different enviroments. Over time, Alberta has incorporated many global ideas (often with a certain kind of gusto) in ways that attempt to keep state claims to legitimacy separate from the fact that state-building entails dispossession of Indigenous peoples, both First Nations and Métis.

This project uses archival work, policy analysis, and field research to examine how water, land, and energy have been configured in Alberta through a global transit of ideas and practices. I had anticipated completing the manuscript in 2020 but was obviously delayed by COVID-19. However, as of late April 2021 I have been able to now nearly complete the main chapters…including on the province’s response to one of the largest ever in situ oil spills in the province, which required damming and draining a 1/3 of a lake when bitumen seeped up from below for over a year. The image to the right is the makeshift dam put in place. In the meantime, I have published some material below that is reworked into the book’s overall argument (but without the focus on the peculiar) disciplinary debates typical of journal articles. These are below.


Several articles from this work are freely available (see below). They cover the Alberta case from various angles. In addition to these literature specific articles.

Publications (all available for free through links below)

Settler Geology: Earth’s deep history and the governance of in situ oil spills in Alberta. Political Geography, 2020. [PDF]

Water policy in Alberta: settler-colonialism, community, and captial [PDF Download]. Journal of the Southwest, 2017.

Water management and the procedural turn: norms and transitions in Alberta. Water Resources Management, 2014. PDF

False promises: the contours, contexts and contestation of good water governance in Lao PDR and Alberta, Canada [PDF Download] International Journal of Water Governance, 2014.

Alternative water futures [PDF DOWNLOAD] . The Parkland Institute, 2011.

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