Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer

Grimshaw Gravels

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Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer Source Water Protection Plan

The Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer Management Advisory Association is inviting residents who live within the boundaries of the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer, and have private working wells, to participate in an ongoing water quality monitoring program. Participants are requested to test your water well up to twice per year and forward the data sheet, along with your well depth, to the MD of Peace No.135 office in Berwyn. The purpose of this program is to ensure the long-term health of our Aquifer. Sample bottles can be picked up at the Public Health Office in Peace River or Fairview. If you require more information, please contact the MD of Peace office at 780-338-3845 or email

Gravels Aquifer Management Advisory Association

In June of 1993, Hugh Bailey from PFRA called a meeting of interested parties to address the following:

  1. can the aquifer sustain present use?
  2. to be pro-active in protecting against contamination of the aquifer due to sump holes, borrow pits, gravel pits and abandoned wells, which may allow pesticides to drain into the aquifer.

The committee representatives were from the Municipalities of MD of Clear Hills No. 21 (now Clear Hills County), MD of Fairview No. 136, MD of Peace No. 135, MD of Northern Lights No. 22 (now the County of Northern Lights), the Town of Grimshaw, the Village of Berwyn and representatives from the Water Cooperatives of Griffin Creek, Weberville and East Grimshaw.  The technical advisors were from PFRA, Alberta Agriculture and Alberta Environment.  The Mackenzie Regional Planning Commission provided secretarial services.  The committee agreed to develop a community focused management plan for the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer.

General Location plan – The aquifer is present in the four rural municipalities with users of aquifer also including Grimshaw and Berwyn.

The Committee’s goal was to develop an aquifer management plan that stressed the wise use of groundwater and to encourage practises that will protect the groundwater from contamination.

From time to time, other technical representatives from Alberta Labour and Public Health attended the meetings to provide information on sewage disposal regulations and the effects that may have on the aquifer.

Local municipalities provided locations of active and inactive gravel pits, municipal, provincial and private public wells, sewage lagoons and landfill sites.

Each municipality surveyed landowners with property located above the aquifer to determine their usage of water.  The questionnaire contained questions on well data, depth, static water level, diameter, active or inactive, usage, and location of wells in relation to buildings, corrals, and sewage systems.

Landowners were asked for opinions on water quality, quantity, safety of the drinking water, taste, odour, scaling or corrosion of water pipes and to indicate what they felt were potential sources of water contamination.

The landowners were also asked to indicate what type of information would be useful to them in managing their own farm/residential water supply.  In 1994/95 a consultant prepared a hydrogeology study.

Using the information, as well as technical and statistical information existing in provincial government departments, the Committee decided to produce a technical report on the aquifer which would provide the Committee with the information needed to make informed decisions on aquifer related issues with the goal of ensuring sustainable development.

Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer Tech Report 1998 part 1
Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer Tech Report 1998 part 2 maps

There are four lobes in the aquifer – each unique and for management purposes can be considered separate units.  Shallow Cardinal Lake and adjacent wetlands are considered part of the aquifer system.

The aquifer is an excellent and reliable source of groundwater.  The average capacity of the aquifer is 1,342 gallons of water per hour per square mile of aquifer (32,208 gallons per day, per square mile).  As the aquifer is approximately 182 square miles, the potential yield is 5.8 million gallons of water per day.

The Earth Sciences Division of PFRA, Regina, developed the report commencing in September 1996, with a Final report issued in April, 1998.

In 1999 the six municipalities agreed to an annual contribution of fifty cents per capita for their residents located within the Aquifer nodes to fund the operation of the committee.  This raised about $3,400 and with financial assistance from PFRA, Alberta Agriculture and Alberta Environment, 200 copies of the report were published.  At this time in 2000, the Committee was incorporated as a non-profit Society to provide legal identity with the six municipalities each having one elected official as a voting member, secretarial support to be provided by the Chairman’s municipality.

Technical support continues from Alberta Agriculture, Alberta Environment and from municipal staff.

The report identified several areas to consider when developing an aquifer management plan:

  1. Public Participation & Awareness program
  2. Existing Data Base
  3. Delineation of Well Capture Zones
  4. Aquifer vulnerability mapping
  5. Ongoing monitoring
  6. A planning and review process
  7. Aquifer Management Policies

1.  Public Participation and Awareness Program

The Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer Management Advisory Association has utilized several procedures to raise public awareness:

  1. Developed a display board which is used at local trade shows
    • Display material includes fact sheets and pamphlets and the “Water Wells That Last for Generations” workbook.
    • Prizes at trade shows include water saver units for toilets and promotional items.
  2. Prepared signs, which were installed along highways, that noted the location of the aquifer nodes.
  3. Prepared weather proof maps of the aquifer, which were installed at community wells, the local UFA Store and two local museums.
  4. Links to the Technical report on MD of Peace website.
  5. Education of the Grades 3 to 6 students through a “Trade Show” format held at the Fairview College for two years.  This was organized by the Agricultural Fieldman in conjunction with her Ag in the Classroom

These community involvement ideas have raised awareness within the region to the point that many newcomers to the area visit the local municipal offices to enquire about the aquifer and how it relates to their newly purchased property.

The Association has attempted to demonstrate proper well abandonment procedures; however, due to costs have not been able to meet this goal. The Association Board will continue to lobby for a Provincial Program in this area.

2.  Existing Data Base

The existing database remains at Alberta Environment.

To date, this database is not updated or used at the local level to make water management decisions.

3.  Delineation of Well Capture Zones

Some municipalities are measuring water well level elevations on a consistent basis while others are unable to do so due to pitless adapters.

There has been minimal success in having local residents measure water well levels although two measuring units were purchased and are available.

Information on recharge areas is limited at this time.

4.  Aquifer Vulnerability Mapping

The drift cover map in the report indicates areas where the aquifer is most sensitive to contamination; however, the additional information on the physical characteristics of drift cover such as permeability and fracturing, has not been gathered.

The well capture zones and the drift cover maps have been used to prepare amendments to the Municipal District of Peace General Municipal Plan and Land Use Bylaw to direct C.F.O.s away from sensitive areas.

5.  Ongoing Monitoring

There are some existing monitoring wells.  As stated previously, the Association has not been able to enlist the help of sufficient residents to measure water well levels to the point that data is useful.

Water samples for water quality are done for all community wells as well as analysis for some minerals and nitrates.  Alberta Environment has tested some of the observation wells, which indicates some small increase in nitrate levels.

6.  Planning and Review Process

To date, the Association has not developed a protocol for ongoing assessment of water quality and quantity in the aquifer.

7.  Aquifer Management Policies

The Association has not developed any aquifer management policies, other than to ask each municipality to add the location map of the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer to their Land Use Bylaw map for awareness when dealing with development proposals.


  • Successful in raising awareness of our valuable water resource, the Grimshaw Gravels Aquifer, in the region’s population

Future Challenges

  • Development of a working plan and a relationship with gravel pit owners to ensure they are aware of and are willing to comply with procedures to prevent contamination of the aquifer through their operations.
  • Development of a working plan and procedures to ensure contaminants do not enter the aquifer through borrow pits during and following their use.
  • Ensure that the oil and gas drilling and seismic operations will not contaminate the aquifer through their actions.
  • Ensure that the agricultural producers do not develop new drainage wells and that existing drainage wells are sealed off.
  • Ensure that several wells in the area are tested at least every 2 years to determine changes in contaminate levels.
  • Develop aquifer management policies and protocols and have them adopted by the Municipalities for implementation.