Ground Water Canada

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Editorial: Spring 2014

Nitrates knowledge - To raise awareness of ground water protection, keep the industry strong

April 30, 2014  By Laura Aiken

I recently watched a woman at the supermarket spend a good chunk of time
at the deli counter pushing to find out which meats were nitrate-free.

I recently watched a woman at the supermarket spend a good chunk of time at the deli counter pushing to find out which meats were nitrate-free. It has become a bit of a thing in deli meat packaging to label your product as nitrate-free, although I do see some items with disclaimers saying “*except for those which are naturally occurring.” Clearly, people are giving thoughts to nitrates in their bacon and hot dog these days, but what about in their water?

Nitrates are nitrogen-oxygen chemicals that mix with various organic and inorganic compounds.  They are used as a processed food preservative and in the formulation of fertilizer (and gunpowder). Once consumed by the body, nitrates become nitrites. There are plenty of naturally occurring nitrates in the environment, but consuming too many is seen as a health concern. Searching online for “nitrates in meat” or “nitrates in drinking water” brings up either: a lot of debate and general information (or misinformation), or government and academic pages highlighting scientific facts and proper protocols. You can probably guess which search turned up which result. There seems to be a lot more public conversation about bacon.


Perhaps the disparity exists because many people do not consider the risk of excessive nitrates due to agriculture fertilization in their water and the subject seems to lack a role in social media conversation and popular press. But the residents of Woodstock, Ont., who were part of a decade-long investigation into solving excessive nitrates in their ground water supply, wouldn’t be among the unaware.

In this edition of Ground Water Canada, journalist Rachel Beavins Tracy reports on the Woodstock-based research undertaken by Dr. David Rudolph, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ont. It is a great success story of surprise solutions that benefitted the town, its people and its agriculture industry. The research results turned up short and long-term solutions to one town’s problem of pervasive and excessive nitrates in its public drinking supply. 

Water is often taken for granted until a problem arises. People can stop eating bacon, but they must drink water, so it is somewhat of a paradox that bacon inspires so much more debate. Thankfully, there is an industry in Canada dedicated to protecting ground water, and that’s you! Protecting a resource that it essential to life yet arguably still poorly understood by the general public is a very important job. It is also important to maintain the strength of the industry, and part of that happens through attending events. If you are able to make it, the upcoming CanWell Show is a great opportunity to network, learn and unite.

The British Columbia Ground Water Association is hosting this year’s CanWell in sunny Kelowna from June 10 to 14 at the Delta Grand Okanagan hotel, with the trade show happening across the street at Prospera Place. This edition of Ground Water Canada contains the show guide and more content exploring the rigs new and old you can expect to see onsite.

I hope you enjoy this issue and the end of a long, dreary, slow winter. Welcome to spring, and bring on summer!

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