As part of our Canada Water Week series, we spoke with Jennifer West about the Ecology Action Centre’s plans to celebrate and get communities involved in water stewardship.
Nova Scotia’s Ecology Action Centre is using Canada Water Week and World Water Day to draw attention to one of its ongoing projects, led by groundwater coordinator Jennifer West. “The water workshop is an opportunity to gather people and tell them about groundwater and how it’s monitored in the province,” says West.
The short technical session should help bring awareness. With help from volunteers, they’re monitoring the quality and quantity of groundwater across the region.
Right now, there are 35 monitoring wells in the provincial network. To increase that network is cost prohibitive, so West and her volunteers have set out to find existing wells that would make appropriate monitoring wells. The members of the Sackville Rivers Association and the Shubenacadie Watershed Environmental Protection Society have happily volunteered their time.
The data they collect is being logged on a website that mirrors the existing provincial website, which lists groundwater levels for each well in the network. This information has been logged as long as the wells have been in the network—a long-term monitoring system West plans on replicating with her team of volunteers. They’re creating a yearly chart and a long-term, multi-year chart showing water levels and listing any chemical contaminants.
Over time, trends will emerge. West says information on seasonal fluctuations in the water table and annual trends (for instance, is an aquifer sustaining or in decline) is useful for everyone from planners to lawmakers.
In a region like the Halifax Regional Municipality, where there’s development potential in several neighbourhoods but not many high-producing aquifers, it’s especially important to understand how much water is available in an area.
“Once you get outside of Halifax, there are broader issues,” says West. Mining and hydraulic fracturing can have unforeseen effects on groundwater. “We want to have baseline data so we can see how an aquifer’s quality has changed over time. This lets us monitor the effects [of certain human activities],” says West. Baseline data would also, over time, shed some light on the effects of climate change on groundwater.
For West, this is a long-term project. The monitoring protocols in this project are identical to those used by the Province, so that if it ever ceases, the government can pick it up and continue to run it.
But West doesn’t see it stopping any time soon. “I thought it would target communities that needed more groundwater management—but it turns out every community needs more information on its groundwater, so we’re really just looking for any wells we can find,” she says. “It has turned out to be a really positive experience.”