The University of Guelph has opened the first phase of a new centre to help ensure safe and sustainable groundwater supplies that is intended to become one of the most advanced bedrock aquifer research facilities in North America.

“This state-of-the-art facility will allow our researchers to discover new information about bedrock aquifers,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research). “It will lead to improved water management practices and generate practical, sustainable solutions for preventing water contamination.”

The Bedrock Aquifer Field Facility will be overseen by U of G engineering professor and groundwater expert Beth Parker. Researchers will study everything from how contaminants travel through groundwater in fractured rock and how they affect well-water supplies to whether they can be easily removed or destroyed underground.

“What we learn here will help advance our understanding of entire urban water systems in Canada and around the world,” Parker said.

The Guelph water system will be a “living laboratory” of sorts. Currently, the new facility includes three boreholes, and will be rapidly expanded into a network of wells that will allow researchers to investigate the bedrock aquifer and overlying soils year-round. It also houses drill rigs, water sampling devices and other types of field equipment.

Parker also heads an international team of 16 researchers aiming to develop technologies to secure safe and sustainable groundwater supplies. In 2009 the group, which includes scientists and engineers from Canada, the United States and Switzerland, received $5 million over five years from the Ontario government.

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