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Research Themes

Hydrogeology of Mountainous Regions

Evaluation of the long-term sustainability of groundwater in mountainous watersheds, in light of growing population, presents significant challenges. Our research in mountainous regions is conducted in an interdisciplinary fashion, using a combination of geological field investigations (e.g., fracture mapping), hydrogeological/hydrological field techniques (hydraulic testing, stream gauging), geophysics, geochemistry (major/minor ions, trace element and stable isotope), and numerical modelling (see research projects). Past projects have focused on the Okanagan Region of British Columbia and combine fractured rock hydrogeology, climate change impacts, and geochemistry (see Groundwater Resources).

Hydrogeology of Coastal Regions

Groundwater supplies the majority of potable water in many coastal communities and islands in British Columbia and globally. To better understand the processes that potentially threaten this valuable resource, it is important to consider its quality and quantity, and how these may change with time. A variety of past and current projects focus on coastal hydrogeology (see research projects). These include numerical modeling and field studies (risk to groundwater in coastal aquifers, hydraulic responses to tidal fluctuation, water quality sampling, etc.). (see Groundwater Resources).

Climate Change Impacts on Groundwater Systems

Human-induced effects on groundwater resources are well known in many parts of the world and may include: seawater intrusion, reduced aquifer storage, land subsidence, the diminishment of base flow in rivers and streams, and increased potential for contamination. Similarly, it has been long known that climate variability, particularly seasonal variability, affects water levels in aquifers. Climate-change induced effects at the human scale, on the other hand, are not well understood. From a regional or national perspective, our understanding of the impact of climate variability and change on groundwater resources, in terms of availability, vulnerability and sustainability of fresh water, remains limited (Climate Change Impacts Research).

Water Security and Groundwater 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. This area of research focuses on Water Security and Groundwater Risk Assessment. 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. More recently, 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). Ongoing research aims to further risk assessment approaches for coastal aquifers, specifically targeting climate change hazards (see research projects).

Groundwater Quality

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 groundwater quality 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.