Columbia Basin Community-Based Groundwater Monitoring Program continues

Living Lakes Canada’ Water Stewardship Lead Raegan Mallinson, and Invermere area volunteer Buzz Harmsworth collect important groundwater data in the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program.

Groundwater stewardship is central to community water sustainability. Groundwater helps maintain water levels in rivers and lakes, which is vital for human use and healthy ecosystems. Careful management and allocation of groundwater is becoming increasingly important as populations continue to grow, demand increases, and pressures such as climate change intensify.

A recent study on Water Monitoring and Climate Change in the Upper Columbia Basin suggests that changing climate conditions may increase the importance of groundwater for maintaining base stream flows in the Columbia Basin.  Groundwater may also become an even more important potable water source as surface water sources could become seasonally restricted or of inadequate quality, or both, under changing climate conditions. The details about how and to what extent climate change will affect groundwater resources in the Basin remains unclear due a lack of mapping, monitoring, and analysis.

Living Lakes Canada began a community-based Groundwater Monitoring Program in the Columbia Basin, starting with a pilot project in 2013. Inspired by the Nova Scotia-based project, Groundswell, the Program is the first of its kind in British Columbia.  The goals of the Program are to help effectively manage and protect groundwater resources in the Upper Columbia Basin by:

  • Filling important knowledge gaps about groundwater resources;
  • Providing information to decision-makers to assist with land use and water planning for sustainable and water smart communities; and
  • Engaging citizens to develop groundwater knowledge and conservation ethic.

The Program works with local citizens, landowners, community groups, First Nations, and local, regional, and the provincial government to identify and monitor priority aquifers and increase awareness about groundwater stewardship in the Columbia Basin. Currently, twelve priority aquifers have been identified by the province based on vulnerability and relevance for future water management, and water level monitoring data are being collected. These data are analyzed by Living Lakes Canada’s team and partners, and shared with stakeholders to support informed decisions regarding groundwater use and stewardship in the Basin.

In 2018, Living Lakes received a grant from the Columbia Trust to continue the Groundwater Monitoring Program. Other current and past supporters include the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Macleans, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, McLean Foundation and Sitka Foundation.  Long-term data sets are essential for understanding the state groundwater resources, and Living Lakes Canada intends to continue to implement and expand this Program.

If you would like to find out more about the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program please contact  info@livinglakescanada.ca.

Heather Leschied is the Program Manager for Living Lakes Canada and Carol Luttmer is the Groundwater Program Manager for Living Lakes Canada.

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