GROUNDWATER STUDIES

Water is a critical resource everywhere but especially in the Oldman watershed because our climate is dry and there is limited water available to support development and our natural environment. Because surface water use is already maxed out, groundwater will come under more and more pressure to provide water for new developments. And because water is connected and groundwater feeds our rivers, creeks and wetlands, we must understand the full system to make good decisions and avoid unintended consequences.

In order to manage groundwater carefully, we must first understand it. How much is there? Where is it and where does it flow from and to? Is it good quality water? Groundwater in the Oldman watershed is complex and is not well understood yet because there has been limited monitoring and research. The Government of Alberta is working to improve our knowledge and understanding through studies of their own and by supporting other organizations to complete research.

The OWC has completed 2 studies so far:

Willow Creek Watershed

Groundwater Study of Willow Creek Watershed Illustrates Need for More Groundwater Monitoring

The Willow Creek study (2012) compiled existing information to paint a preliminary picture of what groundwater resources exist, where/what is the groundwater quality, what is the geology of the region, how is groundwater connected to surface water, and how much groundwater is being used. Data is spotty and was not ground-truthed but the study gives us a starting point to frame future work. Aquifers and geology were mapped and a preliminary analysis of existing data was completed. Based on the limited data available, the study shows that estimated recharge is much greater than current use and groundwater quality varies and is linked to the geology of the area.

One of the key objectives for the study was to get recommendations for a long term monitoring plan to fill the groundwater knowledge gap. Waterline recommended six monitoring locations as well as management actions such as improving the Government of Alberta's current data collection and coordination system and promoting groundwater stewardship to well owners. The OWC will be looking at ways to act on these recommendations in partnership with landowners, all levels of government, academic institutions, and others.

Crowsnest Watershed

Groundwater Report Completed: Increased monitoring critical for managing this important resource

The OWC completed the Crowsnest River Watershed Aquifer Mapping and Groundwater Management Planning Study in March 2013. The objective of the study was to compile existing groundwater information to paint a picture of what is currently known about groundwater in the Crowsnest watershed and to set the stage for what needs to be done in the near future to fill knowledge gaps. Similar to the Willow Creek watershed study we completed last year, the Crowsnest study summarizes what groundwater resources exist, where/what is the groundwater quality, what is the geology of the region, how is groundwater connected to surface water, and how much groundwater is being used. Once again data was lacking but we were able to ground-truth some data this time, which helps improve the data now and for future use.

Aquifers and geology were mapped and a preliminary analysis of existing data was completed. Based on the limited data available, the study shows that estimated recharge is much greater than current use and groundwater quality varies and is linked to the geology of the area. The report also highlights the importance of springs for municipal use and stream flow.

One of the key objectives for the study was to get recommendations for a long term monitoring plan to fill the groundwater knowledge gap. Waterline recommended five monitoring locations as well as management actions such as improving the Government of Alberta's current data collection and coordination system and promoting groundwater stewardship to well owners. The OWC will be looking at ways to act on these recommendations in partnership with landowners, all levels of government, academic institutions, and others.


Doing Your part for healthy groundwater...

If you have a groundwater well get it tested every year for free through Alberta Health Services. Contact your local Health Unit. You will be contributing important data that can be used for research. Make sure your well is not contaminating any aquifers by maintaining it properly. View Alberta's Working Well Fact Sheets for detailed information. 

The Working Well program by the Government of Alberta provides information and workshops for well owners on how to properly maintain their well, and includes a resource list

Environment Canada also provides an overview of groundwater.


Project Partners

A big thank you to all our project partners! We truly appreciate you donating your time and expertise; we could not have done it without you!

Robert Rippin, Alberta Health Services
Barry Olson, Agriculture and Rural Development
Brian Meller, Lethbridge College
Jeff Gutsell, John Diiwu and Brian Hills, Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
Claudia Sheedy, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Cheryl Fujikawa, Southern Alberta Group for the Environment
Paulette Fox, Member at Large
Richard Stein, Member at Large

FUNDERS

Thank you to the Government of Alberta for supporting these studies.


Interesting Links

Groundwater depletion
The USGS Water Science School