The Sylvan Lake Groundwater Project

It’s still just a $1.5 million proposal, but it’s been submitted, and the groundwater modeling teams at the Alberta Geological Survey (AGS) and the top-gun Dutch groundwater consultancy Deltares are hoping that funding will be provided by the Alberta Innovates-Energy and Environment Solutions program in the competition category of Water Technology. Applications must be filed by April 15. Successful projects will be announced on May 25.

Although most people don’t know it, this is a big deal for the land, water and people in this defined project area:

Sylvan Lake groundwater study area 2016

Area proposed for the groundwater model analysis

The AGS has already studied the geology of the subsurface and the availability of water and its water quality in this area. Important background data are in place. The following paragraphs extracted from the project application explain the goals and scope of the proposed work. The full proposal will be linked here when it is officially released as public information.

This project will deliver a sophisticated three-dimensional (3D) Water and subsurface Information management SystEm (3D-WISE), developed in collaboration with key stakeholders. The integration of 3D subsurface, groundwater and surface water models – including water quality – into a user-friendly spatial planning tool is innovative and will push Alberta forward in sustainable water use, land use and rural economic diversification. There is a need both for enhanced system understanding and to balance a diversity of stakeholder values and perspectives. Therefore, engagement and empowerment of stakeholders from the very beginning is crucial to maximize the value of the user-friendly and freely available end product, 3D-WISE. To meet this ambitious objective the project team consists of 11 partners, including universities, local and provincial stakeholders, policy makers, regulators and research institutes.

Alberta’s Water for Life Strategy has three primary goals: safe, secure drinking water; healthy aquatic ecosystems; and reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy. Many of the decisions affecting these goals are made at the sub-regional and community levels. However, the capacity to make informed choices on these issues at this level is often lacking. This project addresses that gap in the Sylvan Lake sub-watershed area by 3D-WISE. 3D-WISE will empower water managers and decision makers at all levels to test, explore, and forecast the dynamic linkages between development and climate scenarios and impacts on surface and groundwater quality and quantity at different spatial and temporal scales. This will allow them to make informed choices about water abstraction and supply, resources (water, energy) and land use in the context of government policy, legislation, and economic conditions. With ongoing development pressures and increased climate uncertainty, fast and reliable access to such knowledge is a necessity to be able to respond to economic development opportunities in a timely fashion while ensuring the protection of the natural environment. 3D-WISE will be based on three main pillars: cyberinfrastructure, science and knowledge, and socio-hydrology.

The project will also be supported with resources and expertise of local stakeholders including the Town of Sylvan Lake, the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance, and the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society and by groundwater experts at the Universities of Alberta and Calgary. If the project is funded, everyone will find that numerical modeling of complex groundwater systems gives you both valuable insights and a headache.

 

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