Our Wells During Drought

Our Wells During Drought

I’m always amazed that so few well owners know the level of the water in their wells. But then, I’m a data-driven sort of guy. If I were on a private well, I would probably have a sensor that sent real-time data to my phone. But that’s me. There is no need for that kind of cutting-edge technology. There are a few well owners who put a tape measure down the well now and again and keep a notebook with the data. That works. But these folks are outliers. Most well owners simply depend on the historical abundance of water in our area.

But the historical availability of water is proving to be an unreliable indicator. Ships Point Improvement District (SPID) has three community wells that have been fabulous producers over the years. This year, even the SPID wells have shown the stress of an unprecedented drought.

BWS monitors a number of wells in the Fanny Bay area (and beyond). The objective is to create a 3D map of groundwater over time. As a side benefit, we can plot the data for each well over the course of the year. This can be useful for the well owner if it’s a well they depend on for domestic water. This year, the gradual downward curves that we see every summer have started sooner and are already much lower than in past years. In some cases, wells are as much as 45 centimetres lower than this time last year. This is good data to have, but scary.

Data can’t protect us from the effects of drought, but it provides a call to action. It tells us that we must prepare. Lately, it’s been telling us that we must change long established water consumption habits. We need to use less water. In a drought, the water table is going to drop no matter what, but we can try to slow that decline.

Even with stringent conservation methods, some folks’ wells are going to run dry. If we have the data and listen to the data, we can better prepare. Maybe just stash a few carboys of water for a brief shortage. Or longer term, maybe install a cistern. Or maybe a rain catchment system.  

These are things individuals can do to prepare. But we need to approach the problem as a community. The water table doesn’t respect property lines or political boundaries. It would be great to have a regional drought response plan. This is a big part of why BWS gathers flow data for local creeks and groundwater data up and down the eastern side of the Beaufort Range. Historical data would be a big part of any mitigation strategy.

As the effects of climate change are accelerating, this feels more and more urgent. We find ourselves saying, over and over again, “we should have started this work ten years earlier”.

Of course, it’s too late to have started earlier. But, please, go have a peek at your well.

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