Non-profit water stewardship organization Living Lakes Canada (LLC) says that the hot, smoky and dry conditions experienced throughout the Columbia Basin over the past summer aren’t the only indicators of accelerated climate change, and that low groundwater levels have also shown a decrease in some aquifers from last year to now.
Groundwater data is obtained from aquifers LLC monitors as part of their Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program. An aquifer is an underground layer of broken rock, gravel, sand or silt that contains groundwater.
“Groundwater is used in the Columbia Basin for domestic, agricultural, industrial, and commercial purposes, and helps maintain water levels and water quality in wetlands, streams, rivers, and lakes. Groundwater is vital for maintaining healthy ecosystems, including habitat for fish, waterfowl, and wildlife,” said Carol Luttmer, Groundwater Monitoring Program Manager for LLC.
“Monitoring groundwater levels is key to understanding what is happening underground. Increasing our knowledge about groundwater systems informs sustainable water management to ensure the needs of people and nature can be met.”
LLC said that two aquifers in the East Kootenay located in Windermere and Cranbrook, were particularly low, with levels down by around 0.75 metres and 0.8 metres respectively. An aquifer located in Shoreacres in the West Kootenay was lower by around one metre.
LLC, who works with well owners who volunteer their wells for monitoring, say careful management and allocation of groundwater is becoming more and more important, as global populations rise, water demand rises and impacts of climate change become more severe.
The Groundwater Monitoring Program is currently monitoring 22 volunteer observation wells throughout the Columbia Basin. They recently published a memo featuring graphs showing water levels for aquifers with more than one year of data.
“To determine if changes in aquifer water levels are associated with drought or other pressures, or if they are within natural variations from year to year, long-term monitoring and analyses are needed.”
The memo can be found at this link: https://livinglakescanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/llc-memo_gw-levels-to-date_summer-2021.pdf
LLC says groundwater is the most commonly extracted natural resource from the planet’s subsurface, and it therefore needs to be protected on a global level.
Earlier this month, the International Association of Hydrogeologists published the Sao-Paulo-Brussels Groundwater Declaration, on which LLC is a signatory, in order to inspire actions that further the understanding of groundwater, and that its careful use and protection around the world is critical.
“The declaration states that because groundwater is a critical resource that is hidden from view, there must be an effort made by governments, hydrogeologists, NGOs and all of society to ‘make the invisible visible.’”
The Groundwater Monitoring Program complements the Provincial Groundwater Observation Well Network, which only has a limited number of observation well in the region, so if you’d like to monitor groundwater in your own area you can contact Carol Luttmer at firstname.lastname@example.org