Understanding Aquifers

To effectively manage groundwater use and the impacts of land development on groundwater availability and quality, it is essential to understand the existence and characteristics of B.C.’s aquifers. Provincial mapping and registration of an aquifer within the Groundwater Wells and Aquifers (GWELLS) is often the first step in developing this understanding.

Provincial Aquifer Mapping

The map-based Aquifer Classification System was developed in 1994. Provincial mapping and registration of an aquifer:

  1. Provides the regional context for groundwater development
  2. Enables provincial priority setting for more detailed groundwater resource assessments and ongoing monitoring of groundwater availability and quality
  3. Increases public understanding of this valuable resource

Spatial information about mapped aquifers can be accessed using each of the following tools, supporting a range of user needs:

  • Groundwater Level Data Interactive Map Portal - view provincial groundwater information with this user friendly map-based tool
  • GWELLS - over 1,100 aquifers extending over more than 30,000 square kilometers have been mapped and registered  
  • iMapBC - view and analyze hundreds of map data layers compiled from across the B.C. Government and other public sector agencies

Limitations of Provincial Aquifer Mapping

Due to data availability, mapped aquifers within GWELLS are generally limited to developed areas. The needs for mapping and registration of new aquifers will change as communities expand or new resource development projects are initiated. The Province periodically initiates new aquifer mapping studies to address these needs.

While aquifer mapping is a useful first step, sustainable management of groundwater resources often requires more comprehensive aquifer characterization composed of additional detailed studies which may include field based measurements of groundwater levels or collection of groundwater samples. In complex systems, computer models may also be required to understand detailed groundwater information. Since 2016, the Province has been publishing these types of studies through the B.C. Water Science Series.

Local governments conduct groundwater studies focused on local priorities such as protection of a municipal water supply.  Where possible, the Province will collaborate with local governments to provide scientific advice or by archiving the groundwater information collected within GWELLS or Aquarius.