Geoscience BC is set to continue work this spring on its mapping of groundwater resources throughout the Peace River valley.
Through late March and early April, the provincially funded non-profit organization plans to drill eleven shallow water wells (approximately 40 to 60 metres deep and six centimetres wide) in the Charlie Lake, Lynx Creek, and the Halfway River areas. Information from these wells will be used to ground-proof results from previous aerial surveys.
“When we core it, we’ll be able to calibrate the surveys. Much of the work that we are doing will be used by First Nations and municipalities in better understanding their water sources going forward,” said Carlos Salas, vice-president energy for Geoscience BC.
The test wells are part of the provincial agency’s ongoing water aquifer data collection project. Aptly named the Peace Project, the initiative was sparked off by the province’s March 2014 announcement of the Water Sustainability Act, which protects and regulates groundwater usage.
Much of the Peace Region is used for agriculture or belongs to First Nations, whom rely on potable and safe groundwater. The past few summers saw Geoscience BC in its preliminary phase mapping the area using aerial sweeps via helicopters equipped with specialized electromagnetic technology.
The flights covered more than 8,000 square kilometres of land, stretching northwest from Hudson’s Hope and Halfway River First Nation, to Fort St. John and all the way to Pink Mountain. These initial aerial surveys collected data at a depth of around 350 metres into the earth’s surface.
“We started out in 2014 by conducting aerial surveys. There wasn’t much information available on groundwater in Northeastern BC. Larger cities and municipalities typically have little issue with this, it’s already been mapped,” Salas said.
The Peace Project remains a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the Ministry of Environment, the BC Oil and Gas Commission, the Ministry of Natural Gas Development, Progress Energy Canada Ltd., ConocoPhillips Canada, Northern Development Initiative Trust, and the BC Oil & Gas Research and Innovation Society, with additional support from the Peace River Regional District and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
In May 2016, Geoscience BC received a $5-million funding package from the province, bringing the total provincial contribution to the organization up to $62 million since 2005. Funding is divided into multiple projects in the province, but Geoscience BC will continue to fund its massive search and analysis of the area’s groundwater resources.
The Peace Project also aids the Northeast Water Strategy, by sharing their research and knowledge. The Northeast Water Strategy was officially released in March 2015 by the Provincial government in partnership with Treaty 8 First Nations, local governments, regulatory bodies, and the resource sector.
Over the past 15 years, the region has seen a large increase in shale gas development. Fracking requires huge volumes of water, with a single well requiring potentially more than 20,000 cubic metres. Currently, most of the water used for hydraulic fracturing in the region is surface water.
Geoscience BC also created the Montney Water Project in 2011, in order to help First Nations, provincial, local governments, industry, communities, and environmental groups ensure that water sources are managed carefully during development. This is key to the Montney shale gas play, a large-scale natural gas resource in the province.
Phase I focused on surface water, near-surface water (unconsolidated materials and shallow bedrock), and sub-surface water (deep bedrock aquifers and disposal zones). The last category is intended to assess the availability of non-potable deep saline aquifers (water that is not suitable for other purposes such as drinking water or agriculture), and the usefulness of these aquifers for disposal of fluids.
Further development may increase demand for water sources, specifically groundwater found in aquifers. This is just one such area that benefits from studying aquifers in the region.
Data and reports from their ongoing projects will be made available to the public. Previous reports and findings at can be found at geosciencebc.com.