Ambient Groundwater Quality Monitoring and Assessment in BC: Current Status and Future Directions

Authors or Ministry Contacts: Yao Cui and Mike Wei
Source: Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
Other details: Published 2000.

Executive Summary:

The Ambient Groundwater Quality Monitoring and Assessment Program (AGQMAP) has been carried out by the Groundwater Section, Water Management Branch, BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (MoELP) since 1985 in specific areas, including Langley-Abbotsford, Osoyoos, Grand Forks and Cowichan Estuary. Ambient groundwater quality monitoring is useful for establishing baseline groundwater characteristics and for investigating long-term trends or impacts to groundwater quality from human activities. This review focuses on this particular monitoring activity in BC and is intended to identify areas where improvements could be made and to provide a strategic framework for enhancing and expanding ambient groundwater quality monitoring in BC.

AGQMAP was initiated to target non-point source contamination in the Langley-Abbotsford, Osoyoos and Cowichan Estuary areas and later expanded to include Grand Forks (since 1989). MoELP continues to monitor nitrate contamination in these areas. Monitoring of seawater intrusion in the Cowichan Estuary was discontinued in 1997.

Over the years, AGQMAP has accumulated a large volume of groundwater quality data which has been used to effectively track groundwater quality trends, identify contamination sources, and provide important groundwater information to decision makers and local communities. As a result, government agencies and some local communities are taking actions to implement remedial measures or to develop aquifer protection plans.

It has been suspected and this review confirmed that nitrate contamination exists in other part of the province. There are groundwater quality concerns of other contaminants as well. As part of this review, data from Aquifer Classification Mapping database and the Water Quality Check Program were used to identify additional areas and groundwater quality parameters for monitoring. These data were summarized by NTS 1:50,000 scale map sheets and linked to a Geographic Information System (ArcView GIS). GIS spatial query, statistics and overlay generated a series of thematic maps to prioritize monitoring. Part of the target areas and monitoring parameters include:

• Arsenic: 100 Miles House, Chase, Kamloops, Sunshine Coast, Bowen Island, Vanderhoof, Vernon, and Williams Lake,
• Fluoride: Armstrong, Duncan, Enderby, Gabriola Island, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Okanagan Fall, Penticton, Salmon Arm, Saltspring Island, and Vernon
• Nitrate: Armstrong, Kamloops, Salmon Arm, Vernon, and Williams Lake, and
• Sodium: Gabiola Island, Hornby Island, Ladysmith, Lantzville, Saltspring Island, and Williams Lake.

Having considered current monitoring activities and resources available for future monitoring, we propose a strategic framework for expanding ambient groundwater quality monitoring to other areas in BC,to include: 1) targeting community aquifers which are vulnerable to contamination and have high water use demand , 2) carry out monitoring jointly with other agencies such as local health authorities, and 3) vary the intensity of monitoring depending on priority.

Recommendations are also made for improving existing ambient groundwater quality monitoring activities, including QA/QC measures, sampling strategies, collection of background information, data compilation, data quality, database design, data analysis, reporting and information dissemination.

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Updated March 2007