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Editorial: Winter 2016

Ground water finds its voice


With climate change finally taking its rightful place at the centre of world attention, and closely related ground water issues joining it, well drillers have an increasingly important role to play in educating the public about this precious resource.

The United Nations conference on Climate Change, informally dubbed COP21 and held in Paris late last year forced many countries to turn their attention to climate change and its potentially catastrophic effects on the planet. These effects – flooding, drought, intense summer heat and declining water supply, among them – in turn will have far-reaching effects on food supply, health, industry and transportation.

Although the full impact of climate change on ground water is not yet known, experts have predicted a long-term decline in ground water storage, saline intrusion in coastal aquifers caused in part by a rise in sea level and a decrease in snow pack moving us from a snow-melt to a rainfall-dominated type of system.

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Publicity around the COP21 talks has prompted the United States to suggest an ambitious goal of reducing water use by one-third as mentioned by the White House after a Water Summit roundtable in December. The goal is idealistic but as newsmagazine Fast Company said, it just may be simple and bold enough to get people at all levels talking about the importance of ground water and its conservation to our survival.

A lot of people in Canada and the U.S. are talking about ground water after a Canadian-led study pushed ground water out from the wings and made it more visible. “The Global Volume and Distribution of Modern Groundwater” published in Nature Geoscience in November made more headlines than usual for a news story about ground water. Using data from almost a million watersheds and more than 40,000 ground water models, the study estimates the world has a total volume of nearly 23 million cubic kilometres of ground water of which about one-sixth is less than 50 years old. One tangible result of the research is a map showing the location and age – determined by measuring tritium concentrations found in 1950s and ’60s thermonuclear testing – of the world’s aquifers. It’s fascinating, collaborative work that has got the public talking.

Last spring, the Program On Water Issues at the Munk School in Toronto held a forum on ground water security issues that gathered experts in ground water science, policy and security issues. Conveniently, the forum was accessible through live streaming and available as a webinar afterward.

David McLaughlin, a well-respected expert on ground water policy, delivered a thought-provoking paper on financing ground water mapping and monitoring. McLaughlin and Adele Hurley, director for POWI, have since written very accessible opinion pieces for the Globe and Mail urging the federal government to make ground water a priority and, in Hurley’s words, “an issue of national security.”

Canada has no shortage of talented and motivated water advocates, and we have no shortage of highly skilled, conscientious and enthusiastic water well drillers who can serve as effective water advocates. Let’s build on that momentum and keep ground water centre stage. Drillers have a huge role to play in educating well owners, farmers, manufacturers and the general public about best practices and contaminants.

We know drillers take pride in being ground water stewards. That is why we are highlighting awareness, sustainability and education during National Ground Water Awareness Week in Canada March 6 to 12.

You all know how important it is to keep up to date on techniques, best practices and products and to let that knowledge trickle down to a willing audience – and we want to make it easier to do that.


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