|A man drinking water, similar to|
the water used in SAGD operations.
Jacobs Consulting has released a study on the pluses and minuses of water recycling in the oil sands. Recycling can greatly reduce water use, but can also lead to more green house gas emissions, particularly when using a evaporation methods to recycle the water, which is necessary if there are high levels of dissolved solids.
Short story? Dealing with water is an environmental problem that involves trade-offs. In areas where plenty of water is available, like in northern Alberta at the moment, it may make more sense to use fresh water from rivers than salty water from aquifers because less greenhouse gases are ultimately released.