In the Nottawasaga Watershed, groundwater is an invaluable resource that must be sustainably managed.
The watershed has four major regional aquifers; they are the main source of drinking water for both municipal water and private wells as well as for crop irrigation. Groundwater is also the source of many streams and wetlands. That's why monitoring the quality and amount of groundwater available is very important.
Groundwater is the water stored underground. It can be held in or moving through layers of soil, sediment or rock. When it rains or when the snow melts, water absorbs into the ground, eventually feeding local streams and wetlands or filters down into aquifers. It then provides water for wetlands, river flow, and supports biodiversity.
It is important to keep contaminants out of groundwater. NVCA uses chloride and nitrate levels as indicators for groundwater quality. In urban areas, groundwater is susceptible to chloride due to excessive application of winter salt on roads and parking lots. In rural areas, nitrate in groundwater can be due to excessive and improper use of crop fertilizers.
NVCA currently operates around 50 monitoring wells across the watershed, some monitoring the same aquifer at different locations. Each well has a logger which tracks groundwater levels and temperature. NVCA staff collects water samples in some wells once a year to track how the chemistry makeup changes over time.
Our groundwater monitoring program is part of Ontario's Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network — a collective effort between Ontario's 36 conservation authorities and a few municipalities that are not part of any conservation authority. NVCA also completed through the Simcoe Groundwater Monitoring Program and monitors through the wells operated by the Ontario Geological Survey South and Central Simcoe Geological Modelling projects.
Another organization NVCA partners with is the Oak Ridges Moraine Groundwater Program (ORMGP). Unlike the name suggests, the ORMGP covers the entire Nottawasaga Watershed.
Most wells in the Nottawasaga Watershed received an 'A' grade for chloride and nitrate. Chlorides are slightly elevated in shallow aquifers near urban areas suggesting that road salts may be impacting these aquifer systems.
The Oak Ridges Moraine Groundwater Program
NVCA is a proud and dedicated partner agency in the Oak Ridges Moraine Groundwater Program. This program was established nearly 20 years ago to manage groundwater data consistently across watersheds that originate from the Oak Ridges Moraine. The ORMGP study area includes the entire Nottawasaga Watershed.
ORMGP is one of the most comprehensive, actively managed water programs in Canada. Its innovative, interactive mapping website provides NVCA staff with access to not only raw monitoring data, but also a library of relevant consulting, government and research related reports, coupled with powerfully interpretive graphs and maps — all designed to assist in making faster and more effective water management decisions.
Partner agencies, such as NVCA, work collaboratively with ORMGP to ensure our data and watershed studies are up-to-date. This allows for more focused NVCA-held data to be integrated with other more regional datasets to enhance understanding of water movement within the watershed.
The ORMGP website provides one-window public access to significant water and geology related data holdings, including maps of wells, water table mapping, geological mapping and long term water level monitoring data, to name a few. Anyone interested in water related data within the NVCA watershed is encouraged to visit the ORMGP website.