Alberta's LSD Coordinates Explained

What are LSD Coordinates?

When it comes to land transactions, property ownership, land-use planning, or locating oil and gas wells in Alberta, Canada, you are likely to come across “LSD’s”. But what exactly do these coordinates represent and why are they so important? In this article, we'll take a closer look at what LSD coordinates are, how they're used, and how to find and map them.


The land survey system in Alberta has a long history dating back to the late 1800s. The Dominion Land Survey, which was established in 1869, was used to survey and divide the western provinces of Canada. This system divided the land into townships, sections, and legal subdivisions or quarters. The surveyors used a system of meridians and baselines to establish the locations of the townships and ranges, with the Fourth Meridian being the initial point of reference. Over the years, the land survey system in Alberta has been refined to the Alberta Township Survey system (ATS) and updated to meet the needs of the oilfield industry and changing land use. Today, it continues to play a critical role in the province.

Map of Alberta explaining how the ATS system works with Meridians, Ranges, Townships, Sections, Quarters, and LSD's

ATS (Alberta Township Survey) coordinates, more commonly called LSD's, consist of Meridians, Ranges, Townships, and Sections

What The Coordinates Mean

LSD’s and Quarter Sections

Let's define what LSD coordinates are. LSD stands for "Legal Subdivision" and refers to a system of land surveying used in Alberta to identify specific parcels of land. The first coordinate can either be a number or letters.

  • If the first coordinate is a number, such as the 8 in "8-1-51-14 W4”, means the section is broken into ¼ mile subdivisions making it 16 total for the Section. The numbers start from 1 the Southeast corner and go West “snaking” their way up to 16 in the Northeast Corner. Refer to the image for an example. This is the format typically used for oilfield locations as it is more accurate than Quarter Sections.
  • If the first coordinate is letters (SE, SW, NE, NW), such as "SW 1-51-14 W4", the letters refer to the Quarter of the section, Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, or Northwest. This format is typically used for land transactions, property ownership, and agricultural activities as land is usually sold as quarter sections.


The next number (1 in our example) is the ‘Section’. A section is a 1 mile by 1 mile parcel of land. Its number can range from 1 to 36 depending on its position within the township. Like LSD’s, the numbers start in the Southeast corner and ‘snake’ their way back and forth to the Northeast corner of the township.


The next number (51 in our example) is the ‘Township’. They are six mile rows that start at 1 at the US border and run North to the Northwest Territories border and end at 126. A township also refers to the 6 mile by 6 mile parcel of land that consists of 36 Sections formed by the intersection with Ranges.


The next number (14 in our example) refers to the ‘Range’. The range is a six mile column that runs East to West between the Meridians.


The final coordinate (W4 in our example) means “West of the x Meridian". The meridians mark specific longitudes. The 4th meridian is right on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border at 110°. The 5th is at 114° (draw a line North and South from Calgary). The 6th meridian is at 118°, roughly halfway between Valleyview and Grand Prairie.

What are LSD’s used for?

When it comes to land transactions and property ownership, LSD coordinates play a crucial role in identifying and locating specific parcels of land within Alberta. They are often used in land titles, real estate transactions, and legal documents. It's important to note that these coordinates are not the same as latitude and longitude coordinates, which are based on the earth's geographic location and are measured in degrees. LSD coordinates, on the other hand, are based on a land survey system and are measured in terms of township, range, and meridian.

In terms of land-use planning, LSD coordinates can be used to identify land for specific purposes such as agriculture, forestry, mining, or oil and gas development. They also play a role in determining property boundaries and resolving disputes over land ownership.

In the Western Canadian oil and gas industry, LSD coordinates are the primary way of identifying and locating specific parcels of land within Alberta that may contain oil or natural gas reserves. These coordinates are used to determine the boundaries of drilling leases and to identify specific drilling locations. Oil and gas companies use them to track and manage their drilling operations, and to plan for future exploration and development. Additionally, LSD coordinates can be used to identify the location of pipelines and other infrastructure associated with the oil and gas industry. They are also used by regulatory agencies to monitor and enforce compliance with environmental and safety regulations.

Finding and Mapping LSD Coordinates

So, how do you go about finding and mapping your property's LSD coordinates? The coordinates can be found on your land title, in your property's legal description, or by contacting the Alberta Land Titles Office. Additionally, there are online mapping tools available that allow you to input the coordinates and will display the location of the property on a map.

One of the best tools for this task is the OilTrails mobile app, specifically designed to locate LSD locations and easily reverse geocode GPS coordinates to LSD coordinates by dropping a pin. It includes turn-by-turn navigation and offline LSD lookups in Alberta. Learn more here. Moreover, you can now locate LSD coordinates from your laptop or computer for free at, enhancing accessibility and convenience for users needing to find precise locations.

In conclusion, LSD coordinates play a critical role in land transactions, property ownership, industry, and land-use planning in Alberta. Understanding how it is used can help you find and navigate to a variety of agricultural, oil and gas, or rural properties.