Rural Water Resources Planner: Federal Departments

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Federal Departments

Although the federal government has a limited role in the management of groundwater resources, federal departments are involved in various research initiatives and mapping activities, and in providing technical and financial support activities for the investigation and development of groundwater resources.

Two departments share the core responsibilities for the federal government's groundwater research activities: Environment Canada through its National Water Research Institute, and Natural Resources Canada through its Geological Survey of Canada.

The paper Freshwater Management in Canada IV. Groundwater (2006), prepared by the Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament provides a comprehensive description of the role of the Federal Government in groundwater management. 

The roles of the following departments are provided in this below:

Environment Canada

Environment Canada's Groundwater webpage and Groundwater- Natures's Hidden Treasure publication provide information on groundwater properties, use of groundwater resources, groundwater quality and contamination issues, geology and engineering issues related to groundwater, and groundwater's impact on wetland areas. 

A discussion of groundwater contamination, sources and prevention is provided on the Groundwater Contamination page, and contamination issues and current groundwater research on the Groundwater page.

Environment Canada's National Water Research Institute (NWRI), is the largest freshwater research body in Canada. The publication Linking Water Science to Policy: Groundwater Quality, provides an overview of the presentations and discussions at a NWRI-organized workshop (2002) on the state of the groundwater quality knowledge and the linking of the science with policy.

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Health Canada

Health Canada is responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health. The department is not directly involved in monitoring or evaluating groundwater resources. 

The department provides information on well water treatment and well maintenance for the prevention of illness on their What's In Your Well? - A Guide To Well Water Treatment And Maintenance webpage.

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Natural Resources Canada

Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN) provides geoscience information and geomatics data and tools in support of management of Canada's groundwater resources.

The current Groundwater Geoscience Program (2009-2014) is an initiative being led by the Earth Sciences Sector of NRCAN. This program will continue to build on and enhance the groundwater knowledge and collaborations of the previous two programs: Groundwater Program (2002-2006) and the Groundwater Mapping Program (2006-2009). The programs will determine hydrogeological information for a number of key Canadian aquifers and establish a national database on groundwater that includes data on quality and quantity. The goal is the establishment of a data framework which can be used by provincial and local officials to make informed decisions on groundwater resources and for responsible aquifer management.

The National Groundwater Database portal provides access to a collection of groundwater resources and services from all across Canada.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Historically, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) through the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) provided technical and financial support to producers in the Prairie region for the development of ground water resources. Financial support was also provided for groups to conduct  groundwater exploration and mapping studies to identify long-term sustainable water supplies. Extending the life of existing water sources became a high priority for PFRA because prevention measures were less costly than developing new water supplies.

Some of PFRA's groundwater activities and publications, and joint projects with other agencies are listed below:

  • Information and Publication Section: Groundwater and Wells
  • In the Sustainable Water Well Initiative (SWWI) project PFRA worked in partnership with industry, other government agencies, researchers, educational institutions and the rural sector, to improve the understanding, awareness and adoption of best management practices for sustainable water well supplies. A number of projects and activities focused on protection and conservation of groundwater supplies, addressing agricultural impacts on groundwater supplies, undertaking applied research and developing new technologies, and transfering this information and technology to the public.

PFRA was integrated into the Agri-Environmental Services Branch (AESB) in April 2009. The AESB continued to work with the provinces and territories and various other stakeholders to address agriculture water-related issues and protect the environment. The work included the provision of services and information on surface and groundwater development, quality, treatment and protection; livestock watering and watershed protection. AAFC ended its water engineering services and activities in 2013.