Old Meets New

Subsurface Hydrogeological Connectivity and Groundwater Protection

PI: Grant Ferguson, University of Saskatchewan 

Co-I's: Jim Hendry; Lee Barbour; Matt Lindsay; Jeffrey McDonnell, University of Saskatchewan

Recent concerns have risen for deeper groundwater systems due to issues related to unconventional oil and gas development and subsurface waste disposal – areas which both suffer from data scarcity. The first phase of this project will conduct a review of the available data for western Canada to improve our understanding of hydrogeological connectivity. We will select a number of case studies to represent typical hydrogeological environments of concern and produce a series of maps and databases to improve our understanding of the hydrogeological settings. Water chemistry will be compiled for various hydrogeological units to improve our ability to fingerprint and differentiate groundwaters. This data will be supplemented by sampling and analysis of water from provincial groundwater monitoring networks and other sampling opportunities from industry. Numerical models will be used to interpret existing physical and chemical hydrogeological data for a series of case studies and improve our conceptual understanding of these systems. These models will constrain the likelihood of significant connectivity between aquifers containing potable and poor quality groundwaters. The methods and findings from these studies will be compared to other regions, both within Canada and internationally, to generalize the findings of this study. The second phase will also focus on developing additional case studies within western Canada to test and improve the findings of the first phase. We will also seek to develop similar databases for eastern Canada, making use of provincial groundwater monitoring efforts and NRCan’s BASIN oil and gas database for eastern Canada.