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Response needed to groundwater supply threats


February 14, 2011
By CNW Group

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Feb. 14, 2011, Toronto – Better oversight of Canada's groundwater
resources is required in the face of numerous challenges, according to
a study released Feb. 10, 2011, by the C.D. Howe Institute.

Feb. 14, 2011, Toronto – Better oversight of Canada's groundwater
resources is required in the face of numerous challenges, according to
a study released Feb. 10, 2011, by the C.D. Howe Institute. In "Protecting
Groundwater: The Invisible and Vital Resource," James Bruce, recently
chair of the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Groundwater,
assesses present and emerging threats and makes recommendations for
better groundwater management in Canada.

Challenges for groundwater management, the author says, include energy
issues, such as the uncertain impact of shale gas "fracking," slow
recharge rates of aquifers, agricultural intensification, and
contamination.  Canada has yet to experience large-scale
over-exploitation of groundwater resources and its groundwater remains
of good quality.  Bruce says the time is right, however, for
establishing the legal, regulatory and management systems, along with
the necessary monitoring provisions, to overcome the threats to
groundwater. 

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Nearly 10 million Canadians, including about 80 percent of the rural
population and many small- to medium-sized municipalities, rely on
groundwater for their everyday needs. However, Canadians living in
large cities and most policymakers tend to ignore groundwater and its
management.  This asymmetry of interests has resulted in fragmented
knowledge of groundwater locations, their quantity, quality, and how
groundwater supplies are changing over time in Canada.

Bruce says an effective groundwater management strategy would adhere to
five major principles for sustainability. They are: protection from
depletion; protection from contamination; ecosystem viability;
allocation to maximize groundwater's contribution to social and
economic well-being; and the application of good governance.

Given the challenges that lie ahead, the author concludes, meaningful
cooperation by three levels of government, as well as prices that
better match the costs of delivering water and wastewater services, and
an expansion in data collection efforts are required to sustainably
manage Canada's groundwater.