Water Stored Underground: Vital and Vulnerable
Protecting the Balance
Groundwater storage is like a bank account. The balance falls when withdrawals exceed deposits. Nature makes deposits through rainfall, and withdrawals through leakage of groundwater to streams and the ocean. Our wells represent further withdrawals. If total withdrawals exceed deposits, we deplete our groundwater storage. Do we know if we are draining our account?
Water table ups and downs through the seasons
The amount of water stored underground changes through the seasons. As winter and spring rains infiltrate the ground, stored groundwater increases and the water table rises. When the rains stop, the water table falls as groundwater leaks into streams and the ocean. Well pumping also removes water and lowers the water table. Excessive pumping of groundwater can result in long-term depletion of groundwater storage.
Underground lakes and rivers?
Not on Bowen Island. Large underground streams and lakes only occur in limestone cave systems. Limestone is unique as it dissolves in water, allowing caves to form. Bowen Island's granitic and volcanic rocks do not dissolve in water and so lack cave systems.
Tapping into water stored underground
Any body of rock or sediment that yields useful amounts of water is an aquifer. Bowen Island has two types of aquifer: fractured rock, and sand and gravel layers. The amount of water stored in fractured rock is typically limited, and these aquifers can run low during the summer drought. Sand and gravel can store more water and these aquifers are less likely to dry up in the summer. Shallow- dug wells can dry up as the water table falls during the summer.
Ensuring our aquifers replenish
Most recharging of aquifers occurs in forested uplands and valley slopes, but land clearing, road building, and ditching reduce water infiltration by creating impermeable surfaces and diverting water into ditches and streams. Infiltration ponds along ditches can increase the return of water into the groundwater system.
Excessive pumping can reduce flow in streams.
Oops! I dried up the stream
Are we depleting our groundwater?