Tag Archives: Groundwater

Canada in need of a national water policy?

1-BLOG WATER ACT

The following article, “Should Canada have a National Water Policy, by Stephen Braun, appeared in the July/Aug 2014 issue of watercanada.

Despite the best efforts of many people who care so much about our national water resources, Canada has no national water policy or strategy. 

hydrologic_cycle

Canada’s creeks, rivers, lakes, and groundwater are governed by a patchwork of laws and regulations, though they cross provincial or territorial boundaries without restriction.
One thing is certain: coming up with a better definition of a national water policy is not going to make it spontaneously materialize. We have defined this issue well and have a good point of reference. What is required now is political will and recognition that such a policy is essential to Canada’s self-interest – and nothing less.
CWRAFor example, the Canadian Water Resources Association took the issue on in 2008 with the release of Toward a Canadian National Water Strategy, authored by well-Rob-de-Loeknown water policy expert Rob de Loe. Yet implementation remains elusive on this subject despite this and other high profile efforts.
More recently, Ralph Pentland and Chris Wood’s 2013 down the drainbook, Down the Drain: How We are Failing to Protect Our Water Resources, explained the unimplemented but ambitious 1987 Federal Water Policy,and that little progress has been seen since federally. Their arguments and facts that our water resources are an issue of national importance and cannot be left to the provinces are compelling. Pentland and Wood stated: “Legislation currently in force and Confederation’s founding documents empower Canada’s federal Crown to take robust action to defend water, waterways, and the life that inhabits them.”
Canada’s past approach to the contrary, the federal government absolutely does have the power to ensure our national water resources are kept healthy and sound. Canada
Canadians might believe this country is advanced in its environmental policy, but we are lagging behind other Image result for environmental protection agency (epa)jurisdictions. Even Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon recognized the importance of a national water policy. He founded
the  Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA), which subsequently led to the Clean Water and Safe DrinkingSAFE WATER ACT Water acts.  Nixon facilitated some pretty ambitious national water protection in a country not known for its love of federal regulation.
Canada’s more recent approach Of discontinuing environmental round-tables, restricting scientists from speaking publicly, and shuttering cottages on certain lakes might seem like the time isn’t ripe for a national water policy. Perhaps the time will never be right exactly, but as water professionals we must continue to advocate for it.

DESMOND TUTUDesmond Tutu visited some of Canada’s northern watersheds this spring. His famous quote, “I am not an optimist, I am a prisoner of hope,” seemed to capture the mood up there. But he said something else.
ch7_11If we apply this insight to a national water policy, it can be seen that the pillars of the bridge are largely in place. They are there as the result of excellent past work of many in this country and within other parts of the world. The reasonableness is in those pillars; it is up to us to build the rest of the bridge—hopefully with more magnanimity than realpolitik—but it must get built. 

 STEPHEN BRAUNStephen Braun is a principal
and water resources engineer
with GeoProcess Research
Associates.

RAINGRID LOGOHe is a founding
partner of RainGrid Inc.

CWRAand is currently the Ontario branch president of
the 
Canadian Water Resources Association.

Related link

http://www.canadians.org/waterpolicy-info 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er3pJzAmouw

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SOPHISTICATED GROUNDWATER MONITORING VIA SATELLITE

WATERCANADALOGOThe following excerpts are taken from Water Canada’s March/April 2013 article, “UNDERGROUND NETWORK – From sensors below the surface to satellites  somewhere in orbit, groundwater monitoring is becoming more  sophisticated”, by Erin Pehlivan.

HELEN APIO CHARITY.ORGHelen Apio is filled with joy as she collects clean water in her Northern Uganda village.  When she didn’t have water, she would walk to the nearest well—2.4 kilometres away—and wait in line with hundreds of other women, clutching two empty five-gallon water cans, anticipating stock.

BC GROUNDWATERCharity: water has helped women like Apio by introducing a unique water technology that detects groundwater in developing countries. Founded in 2006, charity: water’s first project was to install six wells in a Ugandan refugee camp.  They bought a GPS for $100, took it to Uganda, visited each project location and plotted six points on Google Maps, making the information and images public on their website.  Six years later, the charity has funded over 6,994 water projects in 20 countries serving over 2.5 million people with clean drinking waterCHARITY PUMP SENSORSThey have recently been allocated US$5 million for a pilot project via Google’s Global Impact Award to develop remote sensor technology specifically for groundwater.

So far, the charity has mapped each of its water projects to see how they function in real-time.  The remote sensor technology will help keep them posted on whether water is flowing at any of their projects, at any given time, anywhere in the world.

The efficient design of remote sensor technology means that individual community members don’t need to visit every project physically to ensure constant water flow.  These sensors manage time, budgets and resources with ease, allowing more time to be spent analyzing the actual water sample itself in the lab.

Below the surface: While real-time technology is growing more common throughout the water industry, groundwater applications are scarce.

RICHARDRichard Kolacz, president of Global Spatial Technology Solutions Inc. (GSTS), observes smart sensor capabilities that connect to groundwater sensors in Canada, allowing people to collect information from the sensors remotely.

GSTS LOGO2One Ontario conservation authority is already using one of GSTS’s water sensor prototypes on site.  Initially, conservation authorities collected information manually.  Now they’re able to collect it remotely.  “We’ve developed an interface – a means of connecting to a groundwater sensor— to collect information in a format that the conservation authority likes,” says Kolacz.  “Rather than waiting six months or more to collect data, they could have it back instantly.”

GROUNDWATER SENSORSThe data coming from groundwater sensors to conservation authorities allows them to monitor water quality and quantity, and helps them understand the health and use of the water.

What’s so important about monitoring water data?  The data could help First Nations communities in northern Ontario, according to Kolacz.  “We would have the ability to monitor key data points on potentially clean or waste water treatment plants, and provide opportunities to monitor the health and status of those facilities remotely,” he says.

Much like charity: water, the difficulty with GSTS’s prototype comes from having to train staff to manage facilities. The data still has to be analyzed, and the quality of that analysis depends upon a certain level of knowledge.

Please note:  I found the following YouTube video, published on Mar 27, 2013, that is directly related to the above information.  Mr. Kolacz speaks about GSTS’s most recent application regarding goundwater monitoring.  His presentation dealing with this topic runs from 3:20 to 7:30 on the video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tEIb4z3YFe0#at=237

CHARITY SENSORS2Meanwhile, charity: water’s goal is to develop and install 4,000 low-cost remote sensors in existing and new water projects globally, all of which will transmit real-time data to the charity, its partners, and eventually to donors via status updates.  Canada can learn from this model. According to the 2010 Review and Assessment of Canadian Groundwater Resources, Management, Current Research Mechanisms and Priorities by theCCME LOGO Canadian Council of Ministers of the  Environment, practitioners in the field need access to organized groundwater data.  With projects like the ones charity: water and GSTS are piloting, that access can skyrocket.

SATELITEGroundwater is a valuable resource, but it is poorly understood and expensive to investigate. Incentives to effectively manage the resource are low. But respondents of the aforementioned review demand significant effort from the provincial government databases to provide up-to-date groundwater information accessible online. And once we embrace the new insights of cloud-based collaboration and networked sensor arrays, science-based policy will develop and advance, leading to more responsible water resource management and investments – especially when it comes to the murky and mysterious water that flows beneath us. Erin Pehlivan is a Toronto-based writer.

Related links ~

http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/earth-sciences/geography-boundary/remote-sensing/geospatial/1196

for Charity:water ~ http://washfunders.org/Blog/(offset)/30

BRITISH COLUMBIA – 100 YEAR WATER ACT UPDATE

The following excerpts are taken from the September/October issue of Water Canada‘s magazine article by Rick Williams and Luke Dineley. 

Read the full article at: http://watercanada.net/2012/turn-of-the-century/

British Columbia has plans to update its 100-year-old Water Act and finally regulate groundwater use… It’s almost impossible nowadays to open a newspaper… without finding at least one article or report focussing on the criticisms of shale gas development, particularly as it relates to the heavy reliance on water… Concerns over water are the forefront of the debate on multi-stage hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’), the key technology behind the recent shale gas boom.  in British Columbia, an over 100-year-old (…outdated) Water Act is seen by some as an impediment to water protection in the province.

The stated objective of the proposed Water Sustainability Act is to focus the legislative framework on risk, competing demands, and scarcity of water, and to implement an area-based approach to water management… policy goals include: protecting aquatic environments, regulating groundwater use, regulating use during scarcity, improving security, water-use efficiency and conservation…

The Water Sustainability Act will differentiate between groundwater users making large withdrawals. Regulation of large groundwater users will be stricter: all existing and new large groundwater users will be required to obtain a licence…smaller groundwater users, by contrast will not be required to obtain a license…The categorization of a large withdrawal is … expected to be in the range of 250 to 500 cubic metres per day for wells in unconsolidated aquifers, and 100 cubic metres per day for wells in bedrock aquifers… after a long process, the Province has indicated that it is moving to bring the proposed Water Sustainability Act in the legislature… time is running short.  With the next provincial election set for  May 2013… whether it is the proposed Water Sustainability Act , the Water Act will be replaced….

Conservation, Efficiency and Security of Water in BC is discussed in the latest blog for the Living Water Smart blog. Join the conversation here: http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart

Living Water Smart Team member Ted White explains the Water Sustainability Act framework and invites you to participate in building a sustainable future for British Columbia’s water. This video outlines the seven key proposed policy directions: Protect stream health and aquatic environments, Consider water in land-use decisions, Regulate groundwater use, Regulate during scarcity, Improve security, water use efficiency and conservation, Measure and report water use, Enable a range of governance approaches. To comment on the WSA, and to join the conversation on the proposed Water Sustainability Act, visit http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart

In the Living Water Smart blog, Ted White asks for your comments on governance approaches around water sustainability. Join the conversation here: http://blog.gov.bc.ca/livingwatersmart

Central American Water Resource Management Network (CARA)

CARA, founded in 1999, is a water resources training network funded primarily by CIDA (Canada‘s equivalent to USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency.  It is run by the Universities of Calgary and Waterloo, with the former the lead university. David Bethune is the coordinator. CARA is a water resource training network focusing on building local capacity to improve the management and protection of Central American water resources.  

The following excerpts are taken from a Water Canada’s September/October 2012 article,  “Making It Local.  The CARA program empowers students in Central america to manage groundwater resources in their own backyards.” by Kerry Freek and Brendan Mulligan.

Eighty-percent of Central America’s water supply comes from groundwater, and that includes some huge urban water supplies, says University of Calgary’s David Bethune. “With population growth, deforestation, and poverty, the stress on watersheds in central america is huge,” he says. “the natural water balance is being altered, and a reduced natural recharge is affecting the groundwater supply.”  For a region that relies so heavily upon threatened groundwater supplies, central america, like many developing countries, desperately lacks qualified individuals to make decisions about water use and management … With funding from Canada’s International Development Research Centre, Farvolden initiated a program to train future hydrogeologists at the University of Costa Rica.  In 1995, Bethune and Ryan travelled south to help begin the first project. In the first cycle, they had students from Colombia to Guatemala.  Soon, there was a strong consensus that other countries would like to have similar programs.  They continued the program in Guatemala, Nicaragua and, later, El Salvador, Honduras, and Bolivia. As the current project director for the Central American water resource management network (CARA), Bethune now manages the Canadian International development agency (CIDA) funded program that supports six master of science programs in Central America … Within a short period of time, the CARA programs are becoming self-sustaining.  That, says Bethune, is the key. “The intention is independence from Canadian support. the people managing and developing water supplies are from their own country.”  The program in Nicaragua has been particularly successful.  CIDA has rewarded the initiative with additional funding for a project titled community water management in Nicaragua and Central America, which Ryan is directing.  The two are also involved in Hydrogeologists Without Borders (HWB), an organization formed to provide further assistance to CARA students and other similar programs and NGOs.  HWB is currently funding five Central American master’s students in the field of hydrogeology in their own regions.

HOLD THE SALT: CANADIAN COASTAL DRINKING WATER VULNERABLE

McGill Newsroom, Feb. 21, 2012

HOLD THE SALT: COASTAL DRINKING WATER MORE VULNERABLE TO WATER USE THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/news/item/?item_id=214763

Human activity is likely a greater threat to coastal groundwater used for drinking water supplies than rising sea levels from climate change, according to a study conducted by geoscientists from the University of Saskatchewan and McGill University in Montreal.

Grant Ferguson from the U of S Department of Civil and Geological Engineering worked with Tom Gleeson from McGill’s Department of Civil Engineering to examine data from more than 1,400 coastal watersheds. What they found was that with the exception of very flat coastal areas that can be inundated with sea water – rare in North America – most coastal aquifers are relatively unaffected by rising sea level.

What does appear to affect these aquifers is humans pumping water from wells for drinking, domestic use and irrigation.

“The bulk of the research in recent years has focused on climate change effects on coastal groundwater but increases in water demand could be more important,” Ferguson says. “This is particularly true in growing coastal cities and towns where groundwater is often an important water supply.”

Aquifers are geological formations such as sand or gravel that are saturated with water, much like a sponge. Wells draw fresh water from these aquifers, which are then recharged through surface water such as rain and melting snow.

Coastal aquifers, however, are bordered on one side by seawater that can start to migrate into the formation – and into wells – if too much fresh water is drawn out. Similarly, rising sea levels can cause seawater to enter into the formation. To date, only problems related to pumping have been documented in Canada.

“Coastal aquifers are very vulnerable to increased water demand so we have real policy opportunities,” Gleeson says. “We can reduce consumption of groundwater in coastal areas or manage groundwater use wisely.”

It is estimated that one billion people world-wide live in coastal areas, and many are dependent on ground water. In Canada, about 25 per cent of people rely on groundwater, with some areas almost totally dependent on the resource.

The paper, “Vulnerability of coastal aquifers to groundwater use and climate change,” was published online February 19 in Nature Climate Change. The research was made possible in part through support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). Gleeson is a CIFAR Junior Fellow.

 Please note:  I found the photos on:

http://water.usgs.gov/ogw/aquiferbasics/

CALL FOR ACTION ON GLOBAL GROUNDWATER CRISIS

 

International water scientists recently issued a call for action over the growing threat to the world’s groundwater supplies from over-extraction and pollution.

Water supplies will begin running out in critical regions where they support cities, industries and food production by 2030 unless urgent steps are taken to better manage the resource, they cautioned.

http://www.wateronline.com/article.mvc/Call-For-Action-On-Global-Groundwater-Crisis-0001?sectionCode=News&templateCode=SponsorHeader&user=2702840&source=nl:32937

The world has experienced a boom in groundwater use, more than doubling the rate of extraction between 1960 and 2000 — with usage continuing to soar up to the present,” says Professor Craig Simmons, Director of Australia’s National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and member of the UNESCO’s global groundwater governance program.

A recent satellite study has revealed falling groundwater tables in the United States, North Africa, India, the Middle East and China, where expanding agriculture has increased water demand.

“Groundwater currently makes up about 97 percent of all the available fresh water on the planet and presently accounts for about 40 percent of our total water supply. It provides drinking water to cities, is needed to grow much of our food and sustains many industries — yet almost everywhere, there is clear evidence that water tables are falling,” Professor Simmons says. “This means humanity is extracting groundwater much faster than it is naturally replaced.”

“Not many people think of groundwater as a key driver of the global economy — yet it is. If it becomes depleted, entire industries may be forced to shut down or move. Whole regions could face acute water scarcity.”

The groundwater crisis is driven by a competition for increasingly scarce water supplies between the megacities, the energy sector, manufacturing and farming. It has been hastened by an era of cheap pumps and relatively cheap energy, making it easy to extract.

“Over-extraction also has serious implications for the environment, especially when the climate is warming – as falling water tables can lead to emptying lakes and rivers and dying landscapes as the water they depended on is withdrawn,” Professor Simmons says. “The blunt fact is that most countries and local regions did not know the size of their water resources when then began extracting them, nor how long it took to recharge. In some cases this can take centuries or even millennia. As a result they are now extracting their water unsustainably.”

Water is emerging as potentially one of the main limits to Chinese economic growth: groundwater supplies 40% of China’s food and 70% of its drinking water — yet water levels in aquifers in some regions are sinking by a metre or more a year. 660 Chinese cities have polluted supplies or are water insecure.

In the Middle East, depleted aquifers have been a major driver of the relocation of agriculture to Africa and the so-called ‘land-grab’ by wealthy countries. In India the number of wells grew from less than one million in 1960 to 19 million by 2000. Water tables in the key food bowl are sinking beyond the reach of many farmers’ pumps.

“The crisis in global groundwater is chiefly one of poor governance, exacerbated by a lack of knowledge of the size and condition of the resource, rates of recharge, lack of transparent policy, lack of ownership, lack of price signals to users and a lack of political will to do anything,” says Professor Simmons. “It’s fixable — but it will take a lot of hard work and good science to do so.”

“Until recently this problem was on the world’s back-burner — but it is rapidly moving to the forefront. Groundwater science has improved dramatically in the last decade, giving us the ability to measure and manage the resource — but governance has yet to catch up. Unless it does, we can expect serious problems in the future.”

Even advanced nations such as the United States face a crisis in their use of groundwater, says Law Professor Robert Glennon of the University of Arizona. “Groundwater now comprises one-quarter of the U.S. supply and more than half of all Americans rely on groundwater for drinking. Unconstrained drilling of new wells, as many as 800,000 per year, has put incredible strain on aquifers around the U.S.,” he says.

“Plummeting groundwater tables have caused earth subsidence, fissures, and saltwater intrusion. It took millennia for this water to accumulate in aquifers, but humans are pumping it out in mere decades.”

The environmental costs of unsustainable groundwater pumping are staggering, says Glennon. Rivers and springs have dried up or been reduced to a trickle. In Arizona, pumping turned a healthy river, the Santa Cruz, into a desiccated sandbox. Even in humid regions, water bodies have suffered. In the Midwest, wells dug to produce spring water for the bottled water industry have compromised blue-ribbon trout streams. And in Florida, scores of lakes have dried up from intense well-field pumping.

The lack of sensible regulation has created incentives for unlimited access to a finite resource, according to Glennon. “An aquifer is like a milkshake glass and each well is the equivalent of a straw in the glass. What most countries permit is a limitless number of straws in the glass. This is a recipe for disaster,” he says.

SOURCE: National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT)