Fresh groundwater is a renewable resource and must be managed. Who should manage it: users or government? Or both? How should it be managed? Is groundwater scarcity perceived or real? What will happen as the climate changes?
To manage something means to control it. The natural groundwater cycle includes recharge to, storage in and natural discharge from an aquifer – parameters which, at best, can only be estimated. Although these natural parameters cannot be managed, the human impact on the groundwater cycle – that is, the removal of groundwater from the aquifer, and the impact of that removal on the water level – can be measured, and therefore managed.
Meaningful groundwater monitoring is necessary in order to manage groundwater resources. Aquifer tests are a guide to the availability of groundwater at a point in time, but groundwater monitoring allows us to assess how much groundwater is available on a sustained basis and provides data to help predict the effects of climate change on the resource. Meaningful groundwater monitoring includes using calibrated instruments to measure hourly discharge and at least hourly water levels from pumped water wells, and hourly water levels from observation water wells.
With today’s technology, meaningful groundwater monitoring is affordable, with near real-time analysis. The data, collected at low cost, are reliable and accurate – and therefore essential in the management of the groundwater resource.
The best time to start groundwater monitoring was 50 years ago; the second-best time is TODAY.
Examples from Alberta will be provided.
If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.