We know that groundwater is important because everyone in the Sylvan Lake watershed extracts and uses well water. That underground supply of water is also critical for the rest of Alberta as the report “Groundwater in Alberta – An Assessment of Source, Use, and Change” explains.
The full scope of the Sylvan Lake project was introduced at the Watertech 2014 conference by Dan Palombi in the AGS-AER presentation “Integrating Numerical Modelling into the Groundwater Policy Assurance Process”.
The AGS groundwater team has built upon the major Edmonton-Calgary Corridor groundwater study and zeroed in on the Sylvan Lake-Gull Lake-Red Deer region. Phase 1 of the “Sylvan Lake” project investigated the geology under about 600 square kilometres of land that includes Sylvan and Gull Lakes and some of the Red Deer River valley. Those results are published in the AGS report “Three-Dimensional Hydrostratigraphic Modelling of the Sylvan Lake Sub-Basin in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor, Central Alberta”.
Phase 2 takes the detailed geological data from Phase 1 and feeds that knowledge into a MODFLOW groundwater simulation that includes our watershed. The model utilizes that United States Geological Service gold standard groundwater numerical modelling code and links it to the open source software iMod. By zooming in to our valley in 3-D it becomes easy to understand the groundwater dynamics. No analysis will get better than this, especially because the AGS is collaborating with the not-for-profit Dutch agency Deltares as a top-gun expert partner.
Applications that will interest SLWSS members include evaluation of the impact of land use changes on groundwater supplies. Pumping more water for domestic and commercial uses than can be replenished by infiltration, then exporting it from the watershed in wastewater will deplete the underground inventory over time. Urbanization of the watershed will also divert more precipitation into stormwater collection systems and export it to the Red Deer River instead of into Sylvan Lake. Those impacts can also be evaluated by combining surface and groundwater flows in an advanced GSFLOW analysis.
The SLWSS has an opportunity for our “Citizen Scientists” to become actively involved with field data collection to support the AGS’ Sylvan Lake project. Monitoring water well levels, and collecting and submitting well water samples for water quality and geochemical analyses, might be needed as the Sylvan Lake project evolves. Rocky View County has already demonstrated that it can be done by involving its residents in a groundwater project to monitor well water levels.