Towards Saskatchewan Well Water Security: Knowledge and Tools for People and Livestock Health

Principal Investigators: Corinne Schuster-Wallace (University of Saskatchewan), Sarah Dickson-Anderson (McMaster University)

Co-Investigators: Lalita Bharadwaj (University of Saskatchewan), Monica Emelko (University of Waterloo), Simon Papalexiou (University of Saskatchewan), Greg Penner (University of Saskatchewan), Spencer Smith (McMaster University)

Project Overview

Private wells are used extensively across Canada to provide both people and livestock with water to drink. However, in most jurisdictions, these wells fall outside of regulatory oversight, leaving well users themselves as the sole managers of their resources in terms of both quantity and quality. Failure to maintain these private wells poses a risk to all current and future aquifer users. In Saskatchewan, private wells provide a diversified and sustainable source of water for agricultural operations and rural life. While multiple government agencies (e.g., Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, Saskatchewan Health Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, and Water Security Agency) support private well users through testing, consultation, or education, a co-ordinated, data-driven management approach to private well water stewardship is currently lacking.

As a result, there is an opportunity to develop and demonstrate a large coupled (social and physical) system data-driven decision support tool to enhance well stewardship, and therefore better manage groundwater resources and protect health, under changing water futures. Information and data are critical to developing this co-ordinated approach, yet to date these have been collected under specific initiatives for specific purposes, resulting in a patchwork of datasets that cannot be readily combined. This proposal addresses these needs through a coupled systems evaluation of current well-human-livestock conditions and health to support private well monitoring and stewardship. The overarching outcome of this initiative is to improve sustainable groundwater management through private well stewardship utilizing enhanced data and decision tools in order to reduce risks to well water quantity and quality, and ultimately improve human and livestock health.