Groundwater, Climate Change and Water Security in the Canadian Prairies

Principal Investigators: Grant Ferguson (University of Saskatchewan), Andrea Brookfield (University of Waterloo)

Co-Investigators: Matthew Lindsay (University of Saskatchewan), Laura Smith (University of Saskatchewan), Randy Stotler (University of Waterloo)

Project Overview

Water security is threatened by climate change and increased water demands in many areas. In the Canadian Prairies and other areas of western North America, changes in the timing and magnitude of streamflow are altering water availability. Increased use of groundwater resources could help in addressing this problem but the extent to which these resources could be sustainably developed is unclear. Some regions currently relying upon groundwater have extensive groundwater and streamflow depletion as a result of unsustainable management practices. These depletions can occur slowly, over months, years, and millennia, making them difficult to detect and predict.

This project will improve our understanding of how typical hydrogeological settings in the Canadian Prairies will respond to both groundwater pumping and climate change through examination of groundwater age distributions, hydrograph analyses and numerical modeling. The Canadian Prairies have not experienced widespread depletion to date, so we will examine other areas of western North America experiencing groundwater depletion to provide additional insights into what the future of groundwater resources in the Canadian Prairies could look like. This project will provide key insights into monitoring and analysis methods, possible responses, and future data requirements to facilitate groundwater management in Canada and other similar regions.