College students do a deep dive into groundwater monitoring
Groundwater is unseen freshwater that humans, wildlife, and ecosystems rely upon but few of us truly understand. Students at Selkirk College in Castlegar, B.C. recently had the opportunity to get up close and personal with this important water source stored below our feet.
Over three days in late November, a total of 75 students participated in groundwater labs hosted at the on-campus Volunteer Observation Well. As part of the hydrology class in the Selkirk College School of Environment and Geomatics, the labs allowed students to apply concepts learned in class to a real-world setting.
Living Lakes Canada’s Carol Luttmer guided the students in the use of groundwater monitoring technology, tools and equipment. In small groups, every student gained valuable hands-on experience with the well. This included learning to work with loggers that use Bluetooth technology to download hourly groundwater level data, and provide real-time water level information.
As the Field Operations and Data Manager for Living Lakes Canada’s Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program, Carol said “working with the students was energizing. It is very inspiring to have young people be so interested in learning about water and how to monitor it. It gives me hope for the future that this generation is ready to take on the challenge of managing our precious water.”
She noted that students particularly enjoyed learning to manually measure the water level as they plunged the spooled tape into the deep well.
“Carol was so friendly and knowledgeable. I really appreciate her showing us how to monitor our school’s groundwater system,” said Selkirk student Aliss Perrin.
“It was really interesting to learn about groundwater from Carol,” another student, Marilou Pepin-Page, reflected. “It is something we know so little about and we need to understand better.”
Following a discussion on the best practices for collecting groundwater level information, the students downloaded and reviewed the data. Established in 2021, the on-campus Volunteer Observation Well now has a year’s worth of data. Although it’s too soon to delineate groundwater trends at this location, the students learned about the importance of long-term data tracking to forecast water level trends and monitor for climate change impacts. In partnership with Selkirk College, data collected from the well is made publicly available on the Columbia Basin Water Hub and the Province’s Real-time Water Data Tool.
Since many streams, rivers, wetlands and lakes in the Columbia Basin are linked to groundwater sources, the well data was also compared to a nearby water level station on the Kootenay River. This comparison opened up conversations about the connection between groundwater and surface water — how groundwater impacts wildlife and ecosystems, and influences water security in communities.
These groundwater labs at Selkirk College were made possible by TD Friends of the Environment.
“We’re so proud to support Selkirk College’s groundwater labs, which play a critical role in monitoring the local ecosystem in Castlegar,” said Mandip Kharod, Regional Manager for the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. “We’re committed to supporting valuable programs like this, which foster an authentic sense of stewardship for our natural world through exciting learning opportunities.”
The on-campus Volunteer Observation Well that facilitated the lab was established thanks to TD Friends of the Environment and the Columbia Basin Trust. Living Lakes Canada would also like to thank the Selkirk instructors, support staff and facilities maintenance staff. To learn more about the groundwater program, visit the program page.