By Harry Brook
Rural residents know all too well (pun intended) that without water, a yard site is worthless. After the dry conditions this summer, we’ve seen surface water dry up and shallow aquifers become iffy. Water is the basic necessity for life in rural Alberta. How do you ensure it is permanently available for you and future generations?
If you’re drilling a new well or setting up a new residence in the county, an excellent resource for planning, is the Alberta Environment database of wells drilled in the province. They have been collecting well driller reports for 60 years or more and the database is publicly available. You can find it HERE. It is also a good idea to talk to your neighbours about what depth they have their wells. Local drillers are also familiar with where they’ve hit the water zone in the area.
Before you drill, you need to estimate the amount of water you’ll need. An average household uses about 10,000 gallons of water a year. On top of that, you have to plan for any other enterprise that uses water. These could be cattle at 30 gallons per day or a green house or market garden. You plan for what you’ll need now plus any possible endeavours in the future. Household use is protected as a primary user but any additional water needs, such as for livestock should be registered with Alberta Environment so that any major, future water users do not take precedence over your registered uses.
Most wells are drilled using a rotary rig but there are still a few that use bored wells. Bored wells are shallow, under 100 feet deep and the large diameter of the well is used as a reservoir for water storage in the case of shallow, poor producing water sources. New wells are tested by the driller for volume and drawdown of the aquifer over time. This ensures you have the volume of water needed for your house and other water demands.
All of the water in our aquifers originated on the surface. It is still part of the water cycle but the deeper the well, the longer it takes for these aquifers to be replenished from surface water. As the surface water moves down through the soil it is filtered by the soil and porous rock. However, wells must be protected from any contamination that might leak into the well casing. Therefore, be very vigilant to protect the purity of your water source. Your well drill should do its part when drilling. This means it is important to site your well on high ground, away from any potential contaminants. Once the contaminant is in the aquifer, it may never be fully removed.
New wells are tested for potability with a bacterial and mineral test. These kits are available from your local health unit. If your established well starts changing the character of the water you get, either taste, smell or volume, it’s time for another test to see what has changed.
Good water is not a given on the prairies. It is costly and difficult to secure adequate water sources. Once you have good water, make every effort to ensure it stays safe and productive by keeping any potential contaminants away from it. After all, water is essential to life and health.
Harry Brook is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: email@example.com or by phone at: 780-384-4138.