Groundwater is an essential resource for many rural communities in British Columbia, however also municipal water systems rely on groundwater (albeit often in conjunction with surface water). In British Columbia, after the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) came into effect (February 29, 2016), the need and requirement of (better) groundwater management has increased not only from a water allocation point of view but also from a water system planning point of view to ensure that future water demand can be met with the available water resource.
Three years into the WSA implementation, some challenges have been identified regarding groundwater licensing and managing groundwater resources. Stock is being made of what are the lessons learned and how to move forward.
Clearbrook Waterworks District (CWD) is a water utility located in southwestern British Columbia and serves a population of about ten thousand people (regionally and internationally known for its award winning drinking water). CWD solely relies on groundwater for water supply and extracts water from the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer, a transboundary unconfined aquifer composed of glacial outwash deposits.
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) has become an integral tool for CWD for managing groundwater and their well systems. Over the years, CWD has developed a comprehensive natural asset monitoring and management program (with the aquifer being the natural asset). With the help of SCADA a methodology has been developed for analyzing and interpreting groundwater levels and groundwater discharge and recharge trending over the years as observed at CWD’s production and monitoring wells.
By using SCADA for groundwater monitoring, aspects such as well interference from third party wells is better understood as well as the possible effect of winter snowfall (or lack thereof) on aquifer recharge. The analysis of SCADA data has also provided insight in the possible effect of increased annual groundwater withdrawal volumes and changes in pumping regimes on groundwater levels and groundwater balance, information of which is relevant for determining the overall effectiveness of groundwater management strategies that are in place.