Groundwater Sustainability: Protecting our Hidden Treasure

Format
Subjects
Janice Anderson and Let’s Talk Science
Readability
8

How does this align with my curriculum?

Learn about groundwater and why we should protect it.

Groundwater

Did you know that groundwater is the primary source of drinking water for more than 25% of Canadians? We also use it for many other things. We use it to clean our dishes, our clothes and ourselves. We also use it for farming and manufacturing. The uses of groundwater are endless! Even though groundwater is not easy to see, it is an essential freshwater resource. Protecting groundwater is important for future generations of people and healthy ecosystems.

Groundwater is found beneath the earth’s surface. It exists almost everywhere underground. The groundwater that we use comes from aquifers. An aquifer is an underground area of permeable rocks or sediments. 

Water in aquifer
Water in aquifer (Let’s Talk Science using an image by SpicyTruffel via iStockphoto).

A permeable material is one that lets liquids or gases pass through it. Aquifers can store groundwater as well as move water around. Rainfall and some streams and lakes refill aquifers. When it rains, the rainwater flows through the soil and into the aquifer. Later, the water comes back to the surface through the aquifer into wells and springs. How cool is that?

Aquifer refilling
Rain water refills the aquifer (Let’s Talk Science using an image by SpicyTruffel via iStockphoto).

So now that you know what groundwater is and why it’s important, let’s talk about how to protect it. Pollution in groundwater is a serious concern not only in Canada but all over the world. Groundwater becomes polluted when things seep through the soil and enter the aquifers. This includes things like road salt, motor oil, nitrates from fertilizers and pesticides. On the The Government of Canada website you can find a detailed list of sources of groundwater pollution.

Hydrologists are people who study water and the water cycle. They study how water moves, what causes it to move and the effects of its movement. Some of them specialize in studying water above ground. Others specialize in studying groundwater. 

The water cycle/Le cycle de l’eau
The water cycle (Source: Benutzer:Joooo-derivative work: moyogo (talk) -derivative work: Alexchris [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons).

These people are the experts when it comes to groundwater pollution. They look at the sources of pollution and the ways to clean up the pollution. They also think up new ways for protecting and conserving our water supplies.

An important part of a hydrologist's job is creating groundwater management plans (GPS). The goals of these plans is to identify risks to groundwater and find ways to reduce the risks. The key to developing a GPS is having a complete understanding of a groundwater basin. A groundwater basin is an aquifer or group of aquifers in a given area. Each groundwater basin has unique physical and chemical characteristics. These characteristics will determine how the groundwater will be used and protected.

Hydrologists taking water samples
Hydrologists taking water samples (Source: Worley. Used with permission).

Hydrologists work with many other scientists, such as environmental scientists and engineers. Together they develop tools and models that can help to identify risks and solutions. Governments and industries use this information to make informed decisions about groundwater. Being knowledgeable about our natural resources helps us protect them.

Are you interested in protecting Canadian’s freshwater supply? Then a career in hydrology or environmental science is in your future!

Let’s Talk Science appreciates the work and contributions of Janice Anderson, Communications Manager at Worley in the development of this article.

Worley
Worley logo

About Worley

We deliver project and asset services for the energy, chemicals and resources sectors around the world. We provide expertise in engineering, procurement and construction, as well as consulting services. Every day we help our customers get one step closer to solving our planet’s complex issues, such as climate change, the energy transition, digital transformation and how we are delivering a more sustainable world.

https://www.worley.com/

 

References

Government of Canada. (2013). Groundwater. Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Government of Canada. (2017). Groundwater contamination. Environment and Climate Change Canada.

National Geographic. (n.d.). Aquifers. Resource Library.

National Geographic. (n.d.). Groundwater. Resource Library.

U.S. Department of the Interior. (n.d.). Aquifers and Groundwater. U.S. Geological Survey