Oil Sands Regions:

TOTAL AREA:
17,834 km2

TOTAL Human Footprint:
7,456 km2

Region Overview

The Cold Lake Oil Sands Area (OSA), the smallest of Alberta’s three oil sands areas, covers 17,834 km2 (2.7%) in northeast Alberta. The region overlays a large bitumen deposit of the same name. Like the Peace River OSA, these deposits are located too deep underground to extract using surface mining and therefore can only be accessed using in situ technology. While energy development is common, agriculture is the predominant land use. Tourism and recreation are also important; this area has the province’s highest density of high-quality recreational lakes. The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range occupies the northern half of the landbase. Human footprint status and trend is summarized for the Cold Lake OSA.

Status

As of 2016, human footprint occupied 41.81% of the Cold Lake OSA. Agriculture was the dominant human footprint, covering 34.40% of the region. Energy (2.59%), transportation (2.22%), and urban (1.71%) footprints each covered similar areas. 

Human Footprint Type Area (km2) Area (%)
Total Human Footprint 7,456 41.8
Agriculture 6,135 34.4
Energy 462 2.6
Forestry 143 0.8
Human-created Water Bodies 16 0.1
Transportation 396 2.2
Urban/Industrial 305 1.7

FIGURE: Summary of percentage cover of total human footprint broken down by human footprint category in the Cold Lake Oil Sands Area, circa 2016.

Total Human Footprint 41.8%

Agriculture 34.4%

Energy 2.6%

Forestry 0.8%

Human-created Water Bodies 0.1%

Transportation 2.2%

Urban/Industrial 1.7%

Trend

Between 1999 and 2016, the total area of human footprint in the Cold Lake OSA increased by 2.73%, from 39.08% to 41.81%. All footprint types increased during this time with energy (+0.71%) and urban (+0.54%) showing the largest increases. 

Human Footprint Type 1999 (km2) 2016 (km2) Change (km2)
Total Human Footprint 6,970 7,456 + 487
Agriculture 5,953 6,135 + 182
Energy 335 462 + 127
Forestry 82 143 + 61
Human-created Water Bodies 9 16 + 7
Transportation 362 396 + 34
Urban/Industrial 209 305 + 96
Human Footprint Type 1999 (%) 2016 (%) Change (%)
Total Human Footprint 39.1 41.8 + 2.7
Agriculture 33.4 34.4 + 1.0
Energy 1.9 2.6 + 0.7
Forestry 0.5 0.8 + 0.3
Human-created Water Bodies 0.1 0.1 + 0.0
Transportation 2.0 2.2 + 0.2
Urban/Industrial 1.2 1.7 + 0.5

FIGURE: Trend in the percentage area of total human footprint, and by human footprint category in the Cold Lake Oil Sands Area between 1999 and 2016. Click on the entries in the legend to turn human footprint categories on and off.