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Ground Water Canada magazine marks 50 years of publishing

Much has changed in both drilling and publishing industries

March 14, 2024  By Mike Jiggens

Ground Water Canada editor Mike Jiggens with both an older issue of the publication and its most recent edition. Photo credit: Mike Jiggens

Ground Water Canada has hit the half-century mark. The magazine you hold in your hands is the first issue of our 50th year. Originally published under the name Canadian Water Well in 1974, the trade journal was rechristened Ground Water Canada by its founders Peter Darbishire and Peter Phillips, whose AIS Communications Ltd. publishing business was headquartered in Exeter, Ont.

Twenty years ago, the publication changed hands through its acquisition by Simcoe, Ont.-based Annex Business Media. Other AIS-published magazines were included in the transaction.

Significant advancements have been made over the past 50 years in both the business-to-business publishing world and the groundwater industry.


In its pre-Annex years, the pages of Ground Water Canada were printed in mostly black and white – including advertisements and editorial photographs – even into the start of the 21st century. The only colour content to be found were in the first and last few pages. Colour content became standard throughout the magazine soon afterward and remains so.

Beginning with its Winter 2011 edition, Ground Water Canada adopted a newer, more modern-looking logo in which the descender of the capital G in the word “Ground” was stylized to represent a drill. The two-colour logo remains in place today.

The Winter 2020 issue of Ground Water Canada saw the start of a partnership between the publication and the Ontario Ground Water Association in which an eight-page insert called The Source – produced by the association – became a regular part of Ground Water Canada’s overall content.

A vast array of news and features have been published in the quarterly magazine over the past 50 years. Its editorial content has been overseen by several editors over the years, including Elinor Humphries, Scott Hill, Craig Power, Chris Skalkos, Hugh McElhone, Mike Davey, Laura Aiken and Colleen Cross – the latter two of whom continue as editors for other Annex Business Media publications. Ground Water Canada’s current editor is Mike Jiggens.

Editorial content continues to bring awareness to its readers of groundwater contamination, well drilling and inspection techniques, worksite safety, geothermal technology, and the plight of several First Nations communities that still have no access to readily available, clean water.

A short time after the first issue of Ground Water Canada – then Canadian Water Well – rolled off the press, the Canadian Water Well Contractors Association dissolved because of federal and provincial requirements and was reorganized as the Ontario Water Well Association. A building interest among Canada’s provinces led to the reinstitution of the Canadian Water Well Association – having dropped the word “Contractor” – in 1977.

The newly formed national association elected Andy Knelsen as its inaugural president in 1978. He stressed the need for the drilling industry to promote professionalism and to better educate customers about how and where they get their water.

Seven of Canada’s provinces were originally represented by the national association with Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Quebec coming on board afterward.

Many drilling companies diversified their businesses in the 1970s by offering water conditioning as an add-on service at a time when automatic washing machines had become more popular, and populations began to flourish in rural areas.

In the 1970s, it was predicted by a University of Guelph professor that nitrates from fertilizer overuse would eventually compromise the water quality of wells. A story published in Ground Water Canada quoted him urging the need for farmers to be educated about the effects of excess manure on water quality.

In the same decade, the Quebec Water Well Drillers Association was resurrected following a period of inactivity due to several issues. One such obstacle was a provincial zoning law that limited agricultural land for other purposes and resulted in the workload among some of Quebec’s drillers being reduced by 50 per cent.

In 1986, the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association was founded to give a voice to owners of municipal water and wastewater systems.

Featured stories of note
In 1990, Ground Water Canada – still known as Canadian Water Well – published a story about the 1989 implementation in Ontario of a pump installer licence. Contractors required a well contractor’s licence while employees assigned to do the work needed a well technician licence. About 400 new well contractor licences and 1,000 new well technician licences were issued in 1989.

A massive tire fire in Hagersville, Ont. in 1990, in which about 14 million tires were inadvertently set ablaze, was covered by Canadian Water Well, focusing on the fire’s effect on surrounding groundwater. The fire made national and international news.

Also making national and international news, including extensive coverage in Ground Water Canada, was the 2000 E. coli contamination of Walkerton, Ont.’s water supply, which led to seven deaths and the illnesses of more than 2,300 others.

Other stories of note published over the years by Ground Water Canada have included:

The January 2000 issue of Ground Water Canada covered the Canadian Ground Water Association’s investigation into well pit-related deaths. The investigation was launched following the deaths of two Alberta teenagers who died from oxygen deprivation after entering a well pit that was used as a root cellar.

The Spring 2010 edition published a feature about volunteers with Lifewater Canada who helped drill new wells and repair older ones in Haiti following a large-magnitude earthquake that rocked the developing country.

Ground Water Canada reported on a Chatham-Kent, Ont. water issue in its Summer 2019 issue that had area water well owners concerned. Residents said they enjoyed quality water for decades until wind turbines were installed nearby. A follow-up to the story was reported in the Fall 2022 issue, noting drinking water quality was still compromised.

The capital of Nunavut – Iqaluit – endured months of a water crisis when its water was deemed unsafe to drink. The story, reported in the Winter 2022 issue, chronicled the downward spiral of the community’s drinking water quality, which began with residents reporting an odour coming from their tap water. Next came reports of headaches and dizziness. A state of emergency was declared for the city as bottled water was shipped in. Tests revealed high concentrations of fuel in a water storage tank. The timeline of the story featured alternating bouts of improvements and setbacks.

The Fall 2023 issue of Ground Water Canada profiled Darell Lepper, owner of Lakeland Drilling in St. Paul, Alta., who was selected as the first recipient of the publication’s “Distinguished Driller Award.”

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