Comparison of the hydrological role of two reclaimed slopes of different ages in the Athabasca oil sands region, Alberta, Canada

Scott J. Ketcheson, Jonathan S. Price

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

    26 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Establishing hydrological connectivity in reconstructed landscapes, and understanding how this connectivity evolves over time, is critical for the development of effective water management strategies after oil sands extraction. In the current study, the dominant controls on the soil water regimes and runoff generation mechanisms on two contrasting reclaimed slopes (2 and 6 years after reclamation) in the Athabasca oil sands region are investigated. The most recently reclaimed slope demonstrated a hydrologic regime with limited soil water storage due to a low surface infiltration capacity that constrained percolation of rainfall. Accordingly, this slope generated a substantial amount of surface runoff controlled primarily by precipitation intensity. Conversely, the older slope had a greater surface infiltration capacity, more dynamic soil water regime, and infrequent surface runoff. Topography controlled soil water distribution on the older slope more strongly than the newer slope due to more efficient water redistribution. This suggests that changes in the hydrophysical properties of reclamation materials following construction result in a shift in the hydrological role of reclaimed slopes at the watershed scale. Thus, over time, reclaimed slopes produce less overland flow and shift from water conveyors to water storage features in constructed watershed systems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1533-1546
    Number of pages14
    JournalCanadian Geotechnical Journal
    Volume53
    Issue number9
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Keywords

    • Constructed watershed
    • Hydrology
    • Mine reclamation
    • Oil sands
    • Reclaimed overburden slopes

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