Measuring Canada’s groundwater

waterfallSurface water — rivers and lakes — we more or less know where those are. But aquifers, particularly those Canada shares across the border with the United States, are not as well documented.

According to CanWest’s Mike de Souza:

“In the future, (water) will become more and more at risk,” said Alfonso Rivera, the chief hydrogeologist of the Geological Survey of Canada. “We have to invest for the future, and the future is tomorrow. It’s not 2007, but who knows? In 2010, 2012, as these things change, yes, then (water supplies) will be at stake. But for the moment, there’s still time to go on.”

Mr. Rivera also confirmed that the limited knowledge of groundwater resources means that scientists cannot estimate the supply or figure out how much is left. International treaties protect Canada’s surface water in lakes and rivers from any deliberate attempts to drain the resource south, but he said that underground supplies are at risk.

“In the case of surface water, there are treaties, and we can more or less manage on a friendly way,” he said. “But when it comes to groundwater, we are just discovering now what are the aquifers that cross the boundaries between the two countries.”

Mind you, we manage surface water more or less in a friendly way in part because nobody’s seriously threatened it yet, and also because the U.S. states that border on the Great Lakes don’t have much more interest than Canadian provinces do in seeing all that water shipped off somewhere else. Just wait.

Nevertheless, before anybody can propose a sensible way to manage this resource, we ought to know how much of it there is.

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