There are more sources of water than are visible to the eye, but people tend to ignore those they can’t see—unless they run short of water.
So, a small group of UBCO students is looking at the groundwater discharges to Okanagan Lake.
Under the direction of Professor Craig Nichol, earth and environmental sciences, they are, “standing in the lake and looking at what’s coming at us from groundwater sources,” he explains.
Using specialized monitoring equipment along the Kelowna shoreline, they are taking measurements to determine what is seeping into the lake from underneath the city of Kelowna, between Knox Mountain and just north of Okanagan Mountain Park, he says.
It will become part of the comprehensive Okanagan Water Supply and Demand Study, with this project funded by the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
It’s easy to see surface water entering the lake from streams, but underground sources of water are trickier to detect.
It’s a master’s study for one of his graduate students, Nicole Pyett, who will continue the monitoring over the next year, but this year an undergrad, Jordan White, has been working on the project.
That has involved using seepage meters to measure the amount of water coming in to the lake through the ground. The meters are a sealed system that’s driven into the sediments, then the amount of water that accumulates in the bag from the ground under the lake, is measured.
He is also using data loggers to measure the temperature variations between the surface and the sediment layers and noting where there are anomalies in the pattern, indicating an upwelling of water entering the lake.
There’s seepage throughout the lake from groundwater flows, and such sources are not always accounted for because they’re not visible, he explains.
By doing these measurements, gaps in the basin’s water supply and demand data can be filled in, and existing data checked.
White says he was raised in Kelowna and “I’ve been through water shortages, so it’s important to me that we learn more about the resource,” he said, adding, “We use a lot of water per person here.”
Although this information is being gathered about quantity of water going into the lake from groundwater sources, once the location of those sources within the lake is known, it could be put to different uses, including studying the quality or contents of those inflows.
The data gathered will be added to the information in the water supply and demand study for use in modelling.