UNDERSTANDING THE BELCARRA AQUIFER
There’s talk about “another long hot summer” following on the heels of last year’s summer drought, and almost daily we are hearing about the potential for water restrictions within the GVRD and the importance of water conservation. In Belcarra, we also should be paying attention to the subject of water supply. The majority of Belcarra residents source their domestic water from deep-drilled wells that tap into the Belcarra Aquifer, and it is therefore important that we understand the dynamics of our groundwater.
The Belcarra Aquifer is really just the groundwater beneath us. Many people may have heard stories that suggest the groundwater originates much further away in the Fraser Valley, or even Mount Baker, but the reality is that the catchment zones for the Belcarra Aquifer are the mountain areas that immediately surround Belcarra. There are now about 200 deep-drilled wells drawing on the groundwater in Belcarra, and it is essential that we endeavour to understand issues such as the capacity of the Belcarra Aquifer.
The Village was approached in the fall of 2000 by the Water Management Branch of the BC Ministry of Water, Land & Air Protection (WLAP) with a proposal to install an observation well for the purpose of monitoring groundwater level fluctuations of the Belcarra Aquifer as part of the provincial aquifer monitoring program. The province has classified 421 aquifers throughout BC, and the Belcarra Aquifer was one of only 17 designated with a “Category 1A” rating. This rating reflects both the high concentration of wells in the area and the vulnerability of the aquifer to potential contamination. In other words, the Belcarra Aquifer is of “high importance” given the number of residential wells and the potential for contamination due to the geology (fractured bedrock) and number of septic tank fields. The observation well was drilled in the spring of 2001, and we now have three years of data that show the annual cyclic water level fluctuations in the observation well, which is a good start to the data gathering process.
In April 2002, the Environmental Affairs Committee hosted the first Belcarra Aquifer Forum to raise awareness about groundwater. The regional Hydrogeologist for WLAP was the keynote presenter at the forum, and provided an excellent overview of the “workings” of groundwater movement and wells. It’s worth reviewing the Belcarra Aquifer Forum material posted on here on this website.
On June 1st, the Environmental Affairs Committee is hosting the second Belcarra Aquifer Forum to introduce a multifaceted approach to the development of a potable water supply strategy for Belcarra. The first facet of the strategy focuses on the hydrological aspects of the groundwater supply in Belcarra. (Other facets include: community education, conservation, protection from contamination, etc.) To pursue this strategy, Council has funded a study to be conducted by an SFU student working under the direction of Dr. Diana Allen, Ph.D., Professor of Hydrogeology. (Dr. Allen has previously conducted groundwater studies for Hornby Island and other similar locations.)
The first phase of the study, scheduled for this summer, is to develop a conceptual model of the Belcarra Aquifer and the associated subsurface hydrogeology, and will involve the following aspects:
Council encourages all Belcarra residents to be attentive to this important subject, and to attend this next Belcarra Aquifer Forum on Tuesday, June 1st, at the Village Hall.
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Village of Belcarra
4084 Bedwell Bay Road
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