Groundwater is water that is stored below the Earth’s surface. It is part of the hydrologic cycle and has several important roles including a source of drinking water for both humans and livestock. Surface water and precipitation recharge ground water. Precipitation slowly seeps into underground reservoirs called aquifers. Aquifer depth, size and physical characteristics vary. During dry times, groundwater can migrate towards the surface to provide moisture. This is called discharge. Groundwater also flows underground laterally and can discharge into lakes, rivers, wetlands, springs and flowing wells.
The vast majority of rural residents within the Upper Qu’Appelle –Wascana watershed rely on groundwater for domestic use including those who live in hamlets, resort communities, villages and towns. Industry and agriculture rely heavily on groundwater as well. The protection of this natural resource is important.
There are two main ways people can protect groundwater. The first is by conservation and using water resources wisely. The second is preventing contamination. While natural contamination such as heavy metals cannot be controlled, there are many human causes of contamination. These include improper use, storage and disposal of chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides and manure; poor site location of wells, inadequate maintenance or protection of wellheads; and improper installation and/or care of septic systems.
Abandoned wells can be a direct route for pollution to travel into our aquifers, and even a small amount of oil or chemical can travel long distances and remain in place for many years. Decommissioning abandoned wells is a high priority in our watershed. The Water Security Agency maintains on line mapping of well locations in Saskatchewan. To locate well records you can go to wsask.ca and click on Water Info.
The Government of Saskatchewan, through the Growing Forward 2 program provides grants to help protect groundwater resources, and to assist producers develop water supplies.
Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program (FRWIP)
The main purpose of FRWIP is to meet the needs of Saskatchewan’s agricultural producers in developing sustainable non- potable water resources for agricultural use. There are four components to the program: on-farm, agri-business development, irrigation district in-fill, and the community well component.
Producers can also access cost shared funding to decommission abandoned wells (90% rebate) and protect existing wells (50% rebate). For more information on funding and if you qualify, please go to http://www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca/GF2-FRWIP or call 1-877-874-5365. The website also has a downloadable application forms.