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Current Research Themes

Water Security and Risk Assessment

Source water protection strategies are ideally focused where the greatest amount of harm reduction can occur. This process of risk management requires an assessment of the spatial variability of risk to water. Our previous research developed new approaches for assesing the susceptibility of aquifers to contamination in fractured rock environments, and applying local scale indices for vulnerability assessment. We developed a Water Security Risk Framework, and applied the framework to map risk to groundwater quality from surface sources of chemical contaminants (see Research Projects). Recent research aimed to further risk assessment approaches for coastal aquifers, specifically targeting climate change hazards, as well as risks to water security in areas experiencing rapid development, such as Northeast British Columbia's shale gas development (see Research Projects). In addition, we are carrying out field studies on the impacts of pumping on streamflow.

Climate Change Impacts on Water

Climate change and climate variability impact all components of the hydrological cycle.. Our research focuses on impacts of climate change on water, encompassing changes in groundwater recharge and storage, stream flow and interactions with groundwater, as well as changes in coastal aquifers due to sea level rise and storm surge.. The responses of these hydrological systems are examined at timescales of minutes to millenia (see Research Projects). Projects have been carried out in mountainous regions and coastal regions, by combining field studies and numerical modeling to further our understanding of the physical processes that control the response characteristics of these systems.

Groundwater in Mountain Regions

Mountain regions encompass a diverse range of physiographic settings, from high relief alpine terrain to low relief valleys. Throughout these settings, groundwater contributes to mountain and valley bottom streams and aquifers, and is an important component of the water cycle. Increasing demand for water, coupled with the effects of climate change and land use change, are significantly altering mountain hydrologic systems, yet the effects of these changes on mountain groundwater remain poorly understood. Our research, encompassing field and modeling studies, explores groundwater and its hydraulic connection to surface water in mountain regions, from headwater catchments to valley bottoms, and at regional to local scales. A focus has been on fractured rock (see Research Projects)

Hydrogeochemistry

Major, minor and trace element geochemistry in combination with isotope geochemistry can be used to track the evolution of water through the hydrologic cycle and to detect mixing of various water types allowing us to characterize the evolution of water and fingerprint potential sources of contamination (e.g., saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers, agricultural contamination from nitrates, acid rock drainage (ARD) at mine sites (see research projects). A variety of projects related to hydrogeochemistry have been completed or are currently underway (see Research Projects).

Carbon Sequestration

The geologic storage of carbon dioxide is being actively pursued as a viable means of mitigating anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions considered to be contributing to global warming. Our research looks at the geochemical controls on how CO2 is stored and involves developing and generating predictive models of the storage behavior. We are focused on the gas-water-rock interactions taking place during carbon geosequestration, combining studies of natural analogues with experimental work and site characterization studies to refine geochemical modelling methods and reactive transport modelling. Current projects (see Research Projects) include collaboration with Geoscience Australia and the University of Queensland in partnership with the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) in developing experimental data through batch and flow though reactors and numerical modelling of CO2-water-rock interactions and the investigating the impact of co-contaminants SOx, NOx and O2 on water-rock interactions and developing numerical modelling capabilities.