Groundwater in Alberta - An Assessment of Source, Use, and Change
Although many hydrogeologists will argue that much is already known about Alberta’s groundwater resources, the truth is that understanding and an appreciation for this resource is just emerging.
Groundwater in our province exists either as a comparatively younger, non-saline source - designated as any water possessing a mineralization less than 4,000 mg/L total dissolved solids (TDS) - or as comparatively older, and deeper saline source (TDS greater than 4,000 mg/L). The age of groundwater beneath the province has been assessed at a few thousand years up 1,000,000 plus years (in the water-bearing formation less than 300 m below the surface). The volumes of groundwater associated with each major water-bearing formation are immense compared to current usage and allocation.
To meet the challenge of gaining a better understanding and appreciation of our groundwater resources, the Alberta Water Research Institute (now known as Alberta Innovates Energy and Environment Solutions) commissioned Dr. Jon Fennell of Integrated Sustainability Consultants Ltd. to conduct a high-level estimate of the provincial groundwater inventory including use patterns by major basin. This review included the calculation of estimated volumes of non-saline water in our various aquifers, an assessment of recharge or replenishment of the groundwater system(s), use pattern and an assessment of water level trends over the last two decades.
Dr. Fennell's report titled is meant to provide some much needed context to the groundwater picture in our province. Hopefully, it will also stimulate additional thought regarding strategic use and management of this precious resource to ensure sustainable growth and continued opportunities for future generations.
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