Ground Water Issues and Research in Canada
A Report Prepared for the Canadian Geoscience Council by the Task Force on Ground Water Resources Research
John A. Cherry: Chairman
Donald W. Pollock: Vice-Chairman
H. Douglas Craig
R. Allan Freeze
John E. Gale
Pierre J. Gelinas
Robert E.J. Leech
Stephen R. Moran
April 6, 1993
Ground water is the source of water supply for 25-30 % of the population of Canada. The number of Canadians relying on ground water for household water use has increased markedly during the past two decades and is expected to continue to increase. In addition to its importance for household and industrial use, ground water is important in Canada for its major contribution to the flow of most streams and rivers, for its influence on the quality of lake water, and for its sustenance of wetlands. These important contributions of ground water to the well-being of Canadians and Canadian ecological systems notwithstanding, ground water issues have historically received little attention from the federal government and most provincial governments in either an environmental or human-health context. The neglect of ground water problems by government in Canada, particularly the federal government, increasingly puts Canada out-of-step with most other advanced industrialized western countries. In the initial framing of Canada's Green Plan, a major funding initiative for investigating and managing Canada's ground water problems was included. However, this initiative was cancelled as the Green Plan was finalized, leaving the Plan without strong commitments for a ground water initiative. **
This report, which summarizes the status of ground water management and research pertaining to activities in Canada, was prepared by an eight-member Task Force appointed by the Canadian Geoscience Council. The Canadian Geoscience Council is an umbrella organization comprised of thirteen member societies with a combined membership of about 16,000 geoscientists. The Council provides advice to both federal and provincial governments on all matters related to the earth sciences, and serves in an advisory capacity to scientific organizations on the national and international scene. From time to time the Council initiates, or is asked to conduct, studies on the state of knowledge of certain areas of the geosciences in Canada such as the study presented in this report on ground water issues and research in Canada.
The Task Force members are scientists and engineers who work in academia, industry and government at various locations across Canada. The report focuses on the federal government because it is at this level of government that there is the greatest need for new activities, coordination and leadership pertaining to ground water resources.
Traditionally, the federal government has perceived itself as having no major role to play in managing or solving ground water problems in Canada for a number of reasons:
"Ownership" of ground water beneath provincial land is primarily in the regulatory hands of provincial governments.
Ground water is used by a minority (7-8 million) of Canadians for domestic water supply. In contrast federal politicians take a more active concern for ground water issues in Europe, the United States, Mexico and in many other regions, where ground water is the primary source of water supply for the majority or near-majority of the populations.
An "abundance mentality" regarding ground water has developed in Canada, because we have been so richly blessed with water resources. As a result, we are blind to the possibility of ultimate limitations to ground water resource quantity and quality.
Ground water poses administrative problems for the federal government because few ground water issues fit entirely within the mandate of a single department or even a single directorate in one department.
Recently however, federal initiatives through new national legislation on the environment, international environmental agreements in principle, international forces in trade, and numerous global water issues have thrust ground water issues clearly towards the federal agenda. Examples include:
- the Canada Environmental Protection Act (1988), which mandates ground water impact assessments for projects involving certain types of chemicals;
- Canada's Green Plan (1991) that has a general goal of comprehensive environmental management for sustainability, including water resources;
- an initiative of the Department of National Defense to clean up military lands;
- the proposed new Canada Drinking Water Protection Act;
- the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement that has opened up for debate issues of economic advantage derived from unequal environmental regulations between the United States, Canada and Mexico;
- Canada's ratification of Agenda 21, which is a broad environmental document for sustainable development that nearly one hundred countries signed at the World Environmental Conference in Rio de Janeiro, June 1992; and
- the `State of the Canadian Environment' Report (1986, 1992, 1996 expected) that the federal government issues at approximately five-year intervals. These reports have not included assessment of the ground water environment. There is mounting pressure for this omission to be corrected in future Reports.
Increased federal action is warranted in the ground water field for reasons that go beyond issues of water supply and environmental sustainability for Canada. More than two billion people worldwide use ground water as their primary water supply. Enhancing the supply of ground water and dealing with problems of ground water contamination caused by industry, agriculture and municipal activities has recently become a multi-billion dollar global industry, one that is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades.
The Canadian ground water industry has grown rapidly in the past decade. In some subject areas, it now possesses world-class expertise in professional services and manufacturing. The global ground water industry offers great opportunity for knowledge-based and advanced manufacturing-based Canadian industry to compete effectively in the world marketplace.
The Canadian ground water resource is under pressure for many reasons, the most pressing of which involves rapidly increasing cases of contamination. Large expenditures are being allocated to ground water issues, including hundreds of millions of dollars for cleanup of contaminated aquifers and for provision of alternative water supplies in cases where ground water contamination or ground water depletion are otherwise unresolvable. At present, the ability of government and industry in Canada to manage and protect ground water resources is limited by deficiencies in information on many aspects of the resource, and lack of governmental organization, linkages and partnerships suitable for recognizing and solving ground water problems before they reach exceptionally difficult and expensive proportions.
This report identifies ground water issues and problems in Canada; describes the nature and magnitude of Canadian ground water investigations and research, and the sectors in which this research takes place; and outlines areas where improvements in the Canadian ground water knowledge base and related management activities could be made.
The overall conclusion of the report is that Canada needs to make major advances in areas such as ground water inventory, protection and research in order to achieve responsible and effective management of this important freshwater resource.
Proposed Federal Initiative
This report recommends a Canadian ground water initiative under federal leadership, the goals of which should be:
- safe drinking water, including ground water where appropriate, for all Canadians, at reasonable cost now and in the future, availability of sophisticated and reliable scientific advice to a national government positioned to protect Canada's water-resource and environmental interests in trade negotiations;
- enhancement of the Canadian economy in all areas of activity related to ground water, including internal industrial development and increased competitiveness of the Canadian ground water industry in world markets.
Three strategies are proposed to accomplish these goals:
- Develop improved management and a framework of partnerships within which ground water problems can be identified and actions such as investigations and research are undertaken.
- Create new mechanisms for implementation of programs for ground water protection (goal 1), inventory (goal 2), and management (goals 1 and 2).
- Identify priorities for federally sponsored research.
Twenty-two recommendations are presented below, grouped according to these strategies.
The Task Force recommends that federal funds for this initiative come primarily from reallocation of existing federal resources in the three federal ministries that have the most direct mandate for ground water management and research:
- Environment Canada;
- Energy, Mines and Resources Canada;
- Agriculture Canada.
Ground water issues have become important in other federal ministries such as Fisheries and Oceans, Indian and Northern Affairs, National Defense, Health and Welfare and Transport. The task force also recommends that the federal initiative be used to encourage and direct reallocation of funding, scientific and technical resources of provincial governments and universities to ground water studies that will strengthen this national effort. Fortunately, most of the recommendations of this report do not need new resources or even reallocation of resources. These recommendations can be embraced through improved linkages and coordination that must come from better management, particularly at senior levels in the various departments. Some of the recommendations warrant implementation through reallocation of existing federal resources in several federal departments. Consideration should be given to reallocation of a portion of the funds in the Federal-Provincial Contaminated Sites Program to this Canadian ground water initiative.
Establishing an Effective Framework for Ground Water Problem Identification and Research in Canada
1. Establishment of Linkages, Partnerships and External Review
The federal government should establish an interdepartmental (federal) Ground Water Task Force to (i) clearly identify, coordinate and communicate ground water issues and problems within the federal government and (ii) establish functioning partnerships and linkages between federal departments and between the federal government and other elements of Canadian society that deal with ground water issues. This effort should involve directly the following federal ministries: Environment, Energy Mines and Resources, Agriculture, Health and Welfare, Fisheries and Oceans, National Defense and Industry Science and Technology.
The Task Force should develop a federal ground water strategy whereby the federal government can address ground water issues that involve various ministries. There are few ground water issues that fit entirely within the mandate of a single ministry. In the current situation many ground water problems are not being identified or dealt with because they do not fit clearly within the mandate of one ministry, or even one directorate in one ministry. Environment Canada has produced (1990) a departmental `ground water management strategy' for this department that has many excellent recommendations. However, the strategy has not been allocated significant funding for implementation. There is a critical need for an overall federal strategy that encompasses all pertinent ministries, with their plans responding to the overall strategy.
Without an overall federal strategy developed first, with ministry strategies following on the overall strategy, the federal role in ground water issues will continue to be inadequate. However, the Task Force could be dissolved as soon as an overall federal strategy has been set and ministerial strategies that adequately address it are in place. This Federal Ground Water Task Force should appoint an Advisory Panel comprised primarily of leading ground water specialists from outside the federal government, to provide guidance and insight so that bureaucratic impediments are minimized.
2. Establishment of Regional Centres for Ground Water Studies
The federal government should establish regional centres for ground water studies with priority given to the immediate establishment of a centre in the Atlantic Region and second priority to a centre in the Prairie Region.
The Atlantic Region has many of Canada's most pressing ground water problems and has the least expertise and the least on-going research to provide solutions to these problems. The Atlantic Centre should be initiated through federal funding with direct involvement of Environment Canada, the Geological Survey of Canada and Agriculture Canada. The main research universities in the Atlantic Region should be involved, as well as provincial water and environment agencies. The Advisory Panel should provide advice on the organization and structure of this Centre. The Centre should conduct ground water investigations and research on ground water problems of priority to this region as well as some problems of national interest. Also, the Centre should foster ground water research by M.Sc. and Ph.D. students, primarily ones enrolled in universities in this region, thus providing continuing education opportunities for ground water professionals employed in government and industry in the region. This Centre should be established through federal sponsorship of one or two Research Chairs at Atlantic Region universities, stationing of federal scientists in the region (Environment Canada and the Geological Survey), and provision of funding for research projects based in the Region.
The Centre should consist of various partnerships and linkages between the organizations mentioned above and involve significant allocations of personnel and facilities from provincial universities: this Centre should be of highest priority for Environment Canada and the Geological Survey of Canada in the next three years.
A second priority, one requiring a much smaller allocation of new federal resources, is the establishment of a centre or network in the Prairie Region. Much of the ground water research expertise and facilities needed for a Prairie Region Centre already exists in this region. What is needed now is the establishment of strong institution-to-institution partnerships and linkages (federal, provincial and universities) and some augmentation in research funding (federal and provincial) for initiation of research in important topic areas not currently being studied in the region, such as wetlands and mine- environment problems.
3. Education of Ground Water Professionals
The federal government should include mechanisms that foster advanced education of ground water professionals in all of its ground water research activities, whether the activity involves provision of research funds to universities, or the research is conducted primarily in-house. Ground water investigations and research in Canada have experienced large growth during the past 10 years. This growth is expected to continue for many years as the importance of ground water in water supply and ecology in Canada gains recognition, and as Canada moves forward towards world-class accomplishments in solving ground water problems. A limitation on the level of professional practice in ground water activities in Canada has been, and continues to be, inadequate production by universities of professionals with advanced education in ground water science, engineering and other areas of ground water relevance. Also, we expect that the rate of supply of professionals with advanced training will be the main limiting factor in the rate of expansion of business outside Canada by the Canadian ground water industry. To receive appropriate advanced education in ground water studies, M.Sc. and Ph.D. students must participate in research because research is how theses get done. Inadequate numbers of research projects in which M.Sc. and Ph.D. can participate actively are currently a limiting factor in the Canadian production of ground water specialists. The record of accomplishment in including graduate students in the research process in many scientific disciplines in the federal government deserves praise. The time has come to extend it to ground water science.
4. Ground Water and the Canadian Mining Industry
Existing federally sponsored research efforts pertaining to (i) mine-environment problems and (ii) the use of ground water in the exploration for new mineral deposits should provide improved research opportunities, and expanded partnerships between the various segments of the Canadian research community working on mine- environment and mineral-exploration problems.
These improvements should involve research groups in Energy Mines and Resources (Mineral and Energy Technology Sector and the Geological Survey of Canada), Environment Canada, industry and academia. Given the considerable importance of the Canadian mining industry to the Canadian economy, rapid production of research results helpful to this industry should be a priority. The progress of this research should be monitored closely by relatively independent panels or committees to ensure that the achievements are commensurate with the considerable expertise that now exists in Canada for this type of research.
5. Ground Water and Wetlands
The federal government should assess the state of knowledge of Canadian wetlands, including of the role of ground water in wetlands hydrology, ecology and human impacts. It should then sponsor research aimed at filling the main gaps in knowledge of our wetlands ecosystems.
Wetlands protection has become a major environmental and economic issue affecting nearly all aspects of land development in the United States. This situation in the United States has been driven mainly by a federal wetlands protection regulation. Canada lags in this area of environmental protection but has started to move forward in some provinces, such as Ontario, which introduced a broad wetlands protection policy in 1990. It is expected that wetlands protection will become a major factor in land use planning in Canada in this decade. A major difficulty in the implementation of wetlands protection policies is the lack of information pertaining to hydrologic sustenance of wetlands, particularly the role of ground water, and the ways in which changes in the watershed, such as various types of land development, influence wetlands. In this decade it is likely that many billions of dollars of land development decisions will be influenced, one way or another, by wetlands issues. Without improvements in wetlands knowledge through research, many decisions will be made based on insufficient or outdated science.
Access for Canadians to Safe Ground Water
6. Establishment of a Ground Water Protection Office
The federal government should establish an Office for Disseminating Information About Ground Water Protection.
This Office should have a small staff of 2 or 3 persons and should serve as Canada's window to activities in other countries which relate to the protection of ground water quality and supply. It should be located in Ottawa. Several European countries and many states in the United States have made considerable advances in ground water protection during the past decade. This Office should keep a watching brief on any advances and make this information available to provincial and local governments where ground water resources are important. Also, this Office should monitor advances in ground water management and protection that are now beginning to occur in some parts of Canada and build awareness of these across Canada. This Office would not directly conduct ground water investigations or research, but it would assist in the identification of research topics worthy of consideration by ground water research groups in the federal government and elsewhere.
7. Contaminated Sites / Orphaned Sites Programs
The federal government should incorporate appropriate mechanisms and expertise for assessing ground water and ground water contaminant pathways into the Federal-Provincial Contaminated Sites Program and federal government programs pertaining to contaminated sites / environmental audits on federal lands. This would provide for sound decision- making with regard to prioritizing sites and allocating funds for ground water control or cleanup.
Ground water is a major component of equivalent federal programs in the United States (Superfund, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act); in contrast, ground water has received little attention in Canadian programs. Federal programs and activities pertaining to contaminated sites have had little input from the ground water research communities inside or outside of the federal government. The current state of knowledge about ground water issues in contaminated sites programs in Canada will lead to inadequate site cleanups, poor decision-making based on inadequate data, and hence, wastage of public monies.
8. Identification and Hazard Assessment of New Contaminants in Ground Water
The federal government should assess the occurrence and degree of hazard associated with those types of ground water contaminants that occur with significant frequency in Canadian ground waters but which are not detected in the routine analyses of ground water samples and which are not included in current federal or provincial water quality criteria or drinking water objectives.
The goal of this assessment should be the development of an information base that will provide for progressive updating of federal-provincial water quality guidelines and objectives in a manner appropriate for and relevant to ground water resources. Traditionally, the federal government has focused on surface water resources (lakes and rivers) in its development of water quality guidelines or objectives. The contaminants of most concern in ground water are rarely those that are a major issue in surface water.
9. National Standards for Ground Water Information Storage and Retrieval
The federal government should develop national standards and sponsor demonstration projects for computer storage, retrieval and display of ground water information.
Nearly all provinces maintain records on ground water and wells. Tens of thousands of water-well records and other types of ground water information exist in files of various provincial agencies. These records are of highly variable with respect to the type, quality, and accessibility of data. The costs to Canadian industries and governments associated with lack of standardization and accessibility of ground water data are mounting The federal initiative should develop minimum national standards for storage, retrieval and display of ground water information by:
- providing a framework for appraising the new hardware and software systems that have recently entered the commercial marketplace for management and modelling of subsurface data;
- assessing the experience of Canadian provinces and other countries in managing ground water information; and
- undertaking demonstration projects of appropriate technologies in cooperation with the provinces.
10. Aquifer Delineation and Ground Water Resource Characterization
The federal government should establish a system of Ground Water Resource Inventory and Aquifer Characterization Agreements with the provinces with the goal of achieving a specified minimum level of knowledge of the ground water resources in each of the provinces and the Canadian North.
Traditionally, the federal government, through Energy, Mines and Resources and Agriculture Canada, has undertaken as a federal initiative, or as a joint federal-provincial initiative, the mapping of geology and soils across Canada. This provided an inventory of our primary agricultural resources, including arable soils, and geological mapping to guide oil, gas and mineral exploration. These resource mapping activities were deemed to serve the national interest because they provided a framework for the expansion of Canadian agriculture and the development of the mining and petroleum resource industries. Several provinces, particularly in western Canada, have conducted programs to map ground water resources. These programs have varied significantly in the approaches taken, the data quality standards, scale of investigation and areal coverage. Ground water resources in other, large parts of Canada have not been mapped in sufficient detail to allow determination of the extent and potential importance or usefulness of the resource. Development of a national understanding of ground water resources should be achieved through the Agreements. The Agreements could be modelled on the Mineral Development Agreements whereby the federal government provides incentive funding and the provinces conduct the investigations, in some cases in cooperation with federal agencies.
Direct Enhancement of the Competitiveness of the Canadian Ground Water Industry
11. A Ground Water Information System for Land Use Planning and Ground Water Protection
The federal government should develop, through research and field testing, a ground water information system for land use planning and ground water management and protection.
For scientific information on ground water to be used effectively in the context of land use planning, water management and environmental protection, including ground water protection, the information must be compiled and available in a form appropriate for such multidisciplinary use. Communication of scientific information on ground water and water science from the geoscience community to the community of decision makers in land use planning, water management and environmental protection, has been plagued with difficulty. Advances have been made in various countries, particularly the United States, Sweden and Germany, however, satisfactory systems have yet to be developed. There is a need for a federal research initiative on this topic in Canada. This initiative should be undertaken by the Geological Survey of Canada, in cooperation with Environment Canada and Agriculture Canada. The systems developed in other countries should be assessed and, building on this information base, a system or several systems most suitable for use in Canada should be developed and field tested. Appropriate systems for use in Canada are an essential prerequisite for implementation of programs for ground water protection.
12. Inclusion of the Ground Water Environment in the State of the Environment Report
The federal government should include an assessment of the state of the ground water environment in the next issue, and all future issues, of the `State Of The Environment Report'.
In the two previous `State Of The Environment Reports' (1988 and 1992) no significant effort was directed at reporting on the ground water environment. To include ground water in the next report, scheduled for publication in 1996, it will be necessary to develop a methodology or framework for reporting on the Canadian ground water environment. The methodology should be developed by the ground water research groups in Environment Canada in cooperation with the Geological Survey of Canada, Agriculture Canada and provincial agencies.
13. Priorities for Internal and External Federal Research
Ground water research groups in the federal departments, primarily Environment Canada, Energy Mines and Resources and Agriculture Canada should develop research facilities that complement, in general, those that already exist in universities in Canada. Federal in-house research should emphasize those projects requiring long-term monitoring, or other forms of work not well suited for undertaking by non-federal research organizations. Priority should also be placed on research projects intended to provide answers to problems that are anticipated to arise in the future (anticipatory research).
Federal research groups should focus in-house research projects on areas that offer specific advantages over research at universities, provincial research councils / institutes and the private sector. For example, research projects requiring long-term effort with exceptional continuity and intensity in field monitoring are generally better suited for in-house federal research than university research because universities commonly lack continuity in funding and technical support. When the federal government needs answers to ground water problems through research, research expertise both inside and outside the federal government should be used in a manner that takes full advantage of the expertise and facilities existing in Canada. Canada needs major laboratory installations that provide to all Canadian ground water research sectors analyses of ground water samples for a wide variety of chemical, isotopic and microbial parameters. The existing infrastructure both inside and outside the federal government should govern decisions for equipping federal ground water research laboratories.
Federal Priorities for Ground Water Research
14. Ground Water and Transportation
The federal government should assess the impacts of distribution of fuel for transportation on ground water and initiate a federally coordinated effort to reduce these impacts by application of more cost effective remedial measures derived from research and development.
Petroleum products used for transportation are among the largest contributors to point-source contamination of ground water. The petroleum industry in Canada has spent nearly a billion dollars replacing old underground storage tanks and cleaning up petroleum contamination sites. The task is far from complete because many thousands of old tanks remain in the ground and new releases of petroleum products cannot be avoided entirely. Contamination of ground water by petroleum products plagues the public sector as well as the private sector. Federal transport facilities such as airports and transport/military facilities are examples from the public sector. Federal and private sector research is minimal in relation to the overall cost of cleanup activities. The cleanup activities of Transport Canada are conducted in relative isolation of current research in other federal agencies such as Environment Canada and in universities.
15. Ground Water and Agriculture
The federal government should initiate a systematic research program led by Environment Canada and Agriculture Canada to determine the impacts of Canadian agriculture on ground water quality and to determine the degree to which adverse effects can be reduced through reasonable changes in practice.
The Canadian agriculture industry, long a cornerstone of Canada's economy, is being challenged as never before. This 50 billion- dollar-a-year industry, which accounts for one-third of the nation's trade surplus, is buffeted by shifting world trade practices, rising costs, and increasing pressure over practices and technologies that cause environmental degradation, including ground water contamination. In today's movement towards sustainable development to which Canada is committed, extensive degradation of ground water by agriculture is becoming widely recognized. The day is not far off when this issue will become part of the debate over indirect agricultural subsidies (water resource deterioration) and their relation to the global marketplace. Some countries have already instituted direct economic incentives to farmers for changes in agricultural practice aimed at reducing ground water contamination. Canada's current knowledge of agricultural impacts on ground water is meager, even though there is good reason to suspect that agriculture is one of the main causes of significant ground water contamination in many parts of Canada.
16. Ground Water and the Great Lakes
The federal government in cooperation with the Province of Ontario should expand research efforts directed at determining the influence of ground water and ground water-borne contaminants on water quality and ecological systems in the Great Lakes.
Contaminants enter the Great Lakes by four pathways: (a) direct releases from ships, land-based industry and municipalities; (b) discharge of rivers and streams; (c) airborne contamination; and (d) ground water seepage. Of these four pathways, the ground water pathway is the least understood, and thus offers potential to cause the largest errors in predictions of long-term water quality trends and the greatest difficulties in development of effective management plans for controlling contaminant inputs to the Great Lakes. Recent research suggests that contaminant inputs from ground water pathways may be much more important than was previously assumed.
17. Ground Water and Heavier-Than-Water Industrial Liquids
The federal government should ensure that within the framework of Canadian ground water research there is research directed at heavier-than-water industrial organic liquids to a level commensurate with the degree to which these liquids are a problem at contaminated/ orphaned sites in Canada.
An assessment of the occurrence and significance of dense, non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPL) at Canadian sites needs to be made so that plans and cost estimates for site stabilization or cleanup are consistent with the scientific and technical reality of the problem. DNAPL liquids have been used and in some cases are still being used in all regions of Canada. Almost without exception, the contaminated sites in Canada that have been the most difficult to clean up (none so far has been fully cleaned up), and that have received the most financial resources for cleanup, have ground water problems caused by these heavy liquids. In the United States the exceptional ground water problems caused by heavier-than-water industrial liquids (e.g. common chlorinated organic solvents, creosote, PCB oils) were omitted from specific assessment in the first decade (1980-1990) of the Superfund Program, and from other U.S. programs for contaminated sites, such as those specified in the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act. This has, to a large degree, caused some of the major difficulties that now plague these programs, which have fallen far short of what was expected of them. The correction is now being made in the United States, but little recognition of DNAPL problems is inherent in Canadian contaminated sites programs. Research is needed to better understand the long-term environmental impacts of these chemicals and to develop and assess better approaches for site investigations and cleanup.
18. Ground Water Contamination Benefit-Cost Analysis, and Risk Assessment
The federal government should sponsor research aimed at improving methods for determining the risk to human health and the environment as a whole of various types of occurrences of ground water contamination.
The scientific framework for assessing the risk to human health and the environment posed by many ground water contamination problems is weak. It should be improved through research and the research results should be integrated into the decision-making processes required by ground water issues in Canada, particularly issues of financial resource allocation for contaminated site cleanup.
19. Socio-Economic Values of Ground Water
The federal government should sponsor research on the socio-economic aspects of ground water resources in Canada.
Socio-economic studies are needed to provide a better framework for decision- making in contaminated sites programs, in development of ground water protection programs, and in assessment of options for provision of new or expanded water supplies for communities that need more water for growth or to replace contaminated supplies. Commonly, ground water resources currently in use provide relatively inexpensive water because of the lack of need for large surface storage reservoirs, expensive water purification or treatment facilities, and long-distance pipelines. Communities needing additional water, or those afflicted with ground water contamination problems commonly are confronted with major financial issues. Competition for ground water resources between rural and urban communities is an increasing issue. There has been little research on these socio-economic aspects of ground water resource use.
20. Development and Commercialization of Canadian Ground Water Technologies
The federal government should aggressively promote the development and commercialization of Canadian technologies for ground water monitoring, extraction and remediation so that the Canadian ground water industry will have enhanced competitiveness in the world marketplace.
This should be done through encouragement of technology research and technology demonstration as part of Federal-Provincial contaminated sites programs, and programs for site cleanups on federal lands, such as Canadian military bases. Billions of dollars are being spent in the United States on ground water remediation. For Canadian technologies to compete effectively outside of Canada, ample opportunities must be available for initial success in Canada. The federal government should maintain and distribute up-to-date compilations of Canadian technologies under development and technologies available commercially for ground water drilling, monitoring, analysis and remediation. Prototype and pilot-scale trials of ground water technologies should become an integral part of federal programs. Funds for technology demonstration have been made available in the Federal-Provincial Contaminated Sites Program; nevertheless success in promoting advances in Canadian ground water technologies has been limited. The reasons for this should be assessed. Opportunities for use of Canadian technologies on projects on federal lands should be fostered. The Department of External Affairs should be kept well informed of Canadian capabilities in ground water technology and consulting services so that it can better promote the Canadian ground water industry abroad.
21. Report on the Canadian Ground Water Industry and Ground Water Research and Development
The federal government should produce in 1994 a comprehensive report on the capabilities and status of ground water research and development in Canada and on the Canadian ground water industry, comprising the manufacturing and service sectors including ground water drilling, monitoring, treatment and remediation as well as the consulting sector. This report should be up-dated at 3 year intervals.
Ground water research and development in Canada have grown markedly in the past decade. As well, the Canadian ground water industry, primarily the manufacturing and consulting sectors, has also expanded rapidly particularly in areas of advanced technology and knowledge. For Canada to derive full benefit from this, there is need for more and better linkages and partnerships in the research and industrial communities, and for maximum use of Canadian expertise and technology within Canada as well as in the global marketplace. Fundamental to this is the availability of accurate and comprehensive information on Canadian (R & D) and the Canadian ground water industry. Currently, information is scattered amongst various federal departments, universities, crown corporations and other organizations. The information does not exist in a useful, organized state. A comprehensive report will serve many facets of the government, industry and academia in Canada. The report will be an essential document for federal and provincial agencies to promote the Canadian industry abroad.
22. Enhancement of International Opportunities for the Canadian Ground Water Industry
The federal government should intensify its efforts and improve coordination of its activities directed at enhancing opportunities for the Canadian ground water industry to engage in commercial activities outside Canada, particularly in rapidly developing market regions such as eastern Europe, the Pacific Rim, and Central and South America.
Canada has an active and expanding ground water industry that includes the manufacture of drilling and ground water-monitoring equipment, remediation technologies and consulting. The ground water industry is large worldwide, and it is expected to expand for decades because in most countries ground water is the main source of water supply and problems of limited ground water availability and contamination are increasing. The federal government has various programs in place, which include activities of embassies, consulates, trade offices, the Canadian International Development Agency and the International Development Research Centre, to foster involvement of Canadian science, technology and expertise in foreign countries. The Canadian ground water industry should be clearly recognized, packaged and promoted by these organizations. An example of a potentially important new opportunity for the Canadian ground water industry is the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexico derives nearly half of its water from ground water and in many areas ground water is the only water source available. Of the 340 aquifers identified in Mexico, 80 are overexploited, 16 have salt water intrusion; at least 10 have contamination problems, including the Mexico City aquifer that supplies 15 million people; and 5 have land subsidence problems caused by ground water withdrawals.
Benefits to Canada
The overall goal of this proposed Canadian ground water initiative is to provide clear benefits to Canadians. There are many ground water topics to which research effort could be directed by the Canadian research community. The recommendations presented in this report focus only on those topics for which the Task Force expects direct benefit to Canadians, through greater environmental protection, improved human-health status and greater opportunities for Canadian industries. Many of the research recommendations focus on major segments of the Canadian economy where ground water problems are particularly important, such as agriculture, mining, land development and transportation. Ground water problems increasingly are exerting, or are expected to soon exert, economic influence on these industries. Several of the recommendations pertain to issues of contaminated sites. Contaminated sites are currently a repository for large amounts of public funds. Also, increasingly, contaminated sites are an economic factor in the operations of Canadian industries. Dealing with contaminated site issues is a growing factor and expense in the Canadian business community.
Canada has been grappling with water resource and water environment problems for many decades and valuable research and management has been accomplished, but without effective coordination. However, in the past, the ground water part of the Canadian water cycle has not been a priority. This report concludes that the time for ground water to become a priority has indeed come, and that a strong federally led Canadian ground water initiative is the appropriate vehicle for this priority shift.
Schedule and Progress
The Task Force concludes that it is reasonable to expect that within the next three years the federal government should show significant progress with the implementation of these recommendations. This Task Force report is in essence a report card on the state-of-federal- government-affairs pertaining to ground water in Canada. The Task Force is mandated by the Canadian Geoscience Council to review progress on implementing of this report's recommendations in 1995 or 1996.
Questions regarding this document should be addressed to: Dr. Alan V. Morgan, Executive Director, Canadian Geoscience Council, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1.
Task Force of Ground Water Resources Research Members
John A. Cherry (Chairman) Professor Waterloo Centre for Ground Water Research University of Waterloo Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1
Donald W. Pollock (Vice Chairman) President D.W. Pollock & Associates Ltd. P.O. Box 129 Wolfville, Nova Scotia B0P 1X0
H. Douglas Craig Hydrogeologist Department of the Environment P.O. Box 6000 Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1
R. Alan Freeze, President R.A. Freeze Engineering Limited 3755 Nico Wynd Drive, White Rock, British Columbia V4A 5Z4
John E. Gale Professor Memorial University Department of Earth Sciences St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X5
Pierre J. Gelinas Professor Department of Geology Université Laval Ste-Foy, Quebec G1K 7P4
Robert E.J. Leech Vice-President Gartner Lee & Associates 140 Renfrew Drive Suite 102 Markham, Ontario L3R 8B6
Stephen R. Moran Department Head Environmental Research and Engineering Alberta Research Council 250 Karl Clark Road P.O. Box 8330 Station F Edmonton, Alberta T6H 5X2