A snow pillow needs to be installed somewhere in the higher elevations of the Englishman River watershed, while a flow gauge should be installed at Englishman River Falls.
Those are two of the recommendations contained in the final report of phase one of the Lower Englishman River Groundwater Study, released this week by Dr. Gilles Wendling of GW Solutions, in an attempt to learn more about the role groundwater plays in the role played by the aquifers in supplying water to the river, in particular during its periods of low flows.
The study showed the interaction between the overburden aquifer and the Englishman River starts at the 16 kilometre mark and contributes about 30 per cent of the summer low flow. As well, bedrock provides about 30 to 40 per cent of the summer low flow.
However, he stressed that more study is needed and recommended the installation of a flow gauge at Englishman River Falls, as this is where overburden aquifers start contributing to the river. As well, he said a snow pillow should be installed at a higher elevation. A snow pillow is a device that measures both the amount of snow falling in a defined area, but also its water content.
Because groundwater flows through bedrock it is an important player in the watershed, he recommended the installation of a network of monitoring wells be completed in the aquifers to better define the groundwater flowing through bedrock.
Finally, he called for zoning and official community plans to be designed with the overarching priority of protecting watersheds.
“We now understand the importance of the aquifers and their water tables in providing flow to surface water bodies, Wendling said in his report. “It is critical that we take appropriate measures not to stress the aquifers and that our management of the land does not reduce aquifer recharge.”
The study was funded by the Mid Vancouver Island Watershed Enhancement Society and spokesperson Faye Smith called it both important and pioneering.
“We realized there will be further pressures on the Englishman as new real estate comes online,” Smith said. “We are fully aware of the low summer flows that are typical — and with changing climate, these dry periods seem to be lasting longer and longer. There are a lot of concerns for fish and fish habitat.”
Smith said the information about the importance of aquifers in maintaining flows in the summer dry periods is something that developers, planners and other decision makers need to know if they want to develop in a responsible manner.