Over the last years Dawson Creek, in British Columbia, Canada, has moved from its traditional reliance on farming and ranching to benefit from an oil and gas boom. Around 50 kilometres (30 miles) away, for example, a major resource of natural gas lies underground at Shell’s Groundbirch project. To tap it, Shell engineers planned to drill many new wells. But this would require a lot of water. In an area prone to water shortages, they needed to avoid drawing on fresh water.

Shell teamed up with the town council in a special agreement to build a waste-water plant at the local sewage treatment area.

The plant uses man-made technology and natural bacteria to help clean up water that would otherwise be discharged into a local river.

Some of the treated water is reserved for the city – to irrigate public parks and sport fields, for example.

Most is delivered through a 48-kilometre (29-mile) pipeline to the Groundbirch gas field, where it is pumped at high pressure into wells to help release natural gas.

The pipeline reduces the need for tanker trucks, cutting down on noise and dust and making roads safer. The city also earns money by selling some treated water to industries.

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Smart ways to save water

Global resources of fresh water are coming under greater pressure as the world’s population grows and demand for food and energy increases.

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In the Omani desert, reed beds are being used to naturally clean water produced as oil extracted, before it evaporates.

Find out more about Nimr reed beds

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