’50 in 50′ Series: Groundwater Monitoring – What Lies Beneath (2002)

50in50

Lower Trent Conservation is celebrating its 50th anniversary! To commemorate this milestone occasion, we have released our ’50 in 50′ historical blog series. This special series features 50 articles highlighting some of the achievements, milestones and events of the past 50 years. We hope you enjoy them!

Roughly 4.3 million or 30% of Ontarians rely on groundwater as the source of their drinking water, through either municipal systems or private wells. In the Lower Trent Conservation watershed region, this number climbs to nearly 50%.

Groundwater is found below the earth’s surface and is usually held in porous soil or cracks in rocks, much the same way as water is held in a sponge. It is withdrawn from wells to provide water for everything from crop irrigation and industrial processing to drinking water for homes and businesses.

Groundwater can be contaminated by human activities. Oil spills, winter road salt, landfills, and leaky septic tanks are all threats to groundwater quality. Water supplies can also be depleted by excessive water taking or during periods of drought.

Groundwater monitoring is a component of Lower Trent Conservation‘s monitoring program, which focuses on the health of aquatic resources. In partnership with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Lower Trent Conservation participates in the Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network, collecting and managing groundwater data for water levels, temperature, and quality at 10 locations within the watershed. This data contributes to provincial databases and helps inform the assessment and projection of long-term water quality trends (available here), and will be useful to help identify trends in the face of climate change.

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Monitoring well maintenance (2004)

Groundwater Monitoring in 2002

2002 proved to be an important year for advancing the understanding of groundwater across Ontario. In the previous year, the Ontario Government launched the $6 million Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network, a program to begin collecting vital baseline information about groundwater resources. Responsible in part for this initiative were the drought-like conditions southern Ontario experienced in 1999 and again in 2001. As a result of this, groundwater resources had become increasingly stressed. The Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network would help determine what effects such conditions have on groundwater supplies.

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Monitoring equipment

The Provincial Network consists of almost 400 wells equipped with electronic monitoring instruments, ongoing periodic chemical analysis of water samples, and the development and implementation of a groundwater information database.

With this initiative, Lower Trent Conservation began seeking unused, drilled wells to incorporate into the new Monitoring Network. The goal was to gain better understanding of local groundwater conditions and processes. Accurate assessment of current groundwater conditions allows the Province and municipal governments to make better informed decisions on critical matters such as managing low water levels and water takings, land use planning, and monitoring climate change. Throughout the year, water levels and temperatures are monitored and recorded hourly in each of the wells using an automated instrument called a level logger. Water samples are also taken annually from the wells to provide data about changes in water quality in the vicinity of the well.

Groundwater is a hidden natural treasure – please help protect it and use it wisely!

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