Nieuw project gestart: Groundwater Chautauqua Project: groundwater security information system

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Because of its location atop a thick sedimentary basin with a world-class endowment of hydrocarbons and coal, Alberta’s long-term economic performance and rate of population growth is usually well above the Canadian average. Energy-development growth leads to ongoing increases in water demand for energy extraction and leads to risk of water-quality degradation due to waste-management practices, changes in land use, or spills.

Allocations and diversions of water in Alberta in all sectors including energy have traditionally been focused on surface-water sources. Groundwater diversions have historically represented a very minimal set of the total permitted water diversions. But Alberta’s surface-water supplies are reaching their limits. The largest river basin of southern Alberta is now closed to new surface-water allocations. Annual snowpack and summer glacial meltwaters are becoming more unreliable and both main stem and tributary rivers in central and northern Alberta are becoming stressed with respect to flows.

Alberta’s groundwater resources, on the other hand, are relatively undeveloped. The importance of groundwater to Alberta as an untapped resource capable of meeting future water demand for energy development while sustaining environmental quality means that investment in good groundwater management is vital for Alberta’s energy sector.

Predictive groundwater computer-simulations (groundwater models) are essential for groundwater-resource management. Groundwater models honour local geology and obey physical and chemical principles of hydrogeology as translated into mathematical and statistical formulations. The models can be solved or “run” in hindcast and forecast modes to assess pre-development natural resource states (essential understanding for ecological service values) as well as trajectories of groundwater quantity and quality change under past and future development.

There is a clear need for a groundwater information system based on trusted groundwater models to evaluate and assessof proposed new water wells and their cumulative (environmental) effects to support licensing processes and to monitor the impacts of operations on groundwater resources and groundwater quality. The groundwater information system should be an open platform and present impacts of proposed activities in a transparent way.

The main users of this groundwater information system are industry operators, especially in the energy sector, municipalities, farmers, land-owners, policy makers, land-use and natural resource planners, and regulators.

The main beneficiaries of the groundwater information system are Albertans at large, who want assurance that drinking water is safe, that there is secure water supply for the economy, and that Alberta’s aquatic ecosystems remain healthy.

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