The Vancouver Island Region Watershed Protection Steering Committee initiated a collaborative project beginning in 2006 between the BC Ministry of Environment, Vancouver Island
University, Natural Resources Canada, Vancouver Island Health Authority and Regional Districts on Vancouver Island to assess the relative vulnerability of the groundwater resources to contamination from surface sources. The need for this type of
assessment was highlighted by increased development pressures coupled with industrial and agricultural land use activities that may threaten the quality of ground and surface water supplies. The vulnerability of aquifers to contamination needed to be
characterized in order to be considered alongside other social, economic and environmental priorities for Vancouver Island and the province, as part of the comprehensive land use planning process.
The project team decided to develop "intrinsic
aquifer vulnerability maps" as an initial phase of the project since this type of mapping has proven to be an efficient tool for assisting in decision-making by prioritizing regions of concern with respect to groundwater. Local governments, planners,
and policy makers can use these maps to enable land-use decisions that take into consideration the sensitivity of the groundwater resources, encourage sustainable development, identify sensitive areas, plan monitoring strategies, and focus
remediation efforts. An existing aquifer vulnerability methodology developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, known as DRASTIC, was employed in the assessment. DRASTIC is an acronym for the seven parameters that can influence the
vulnerability of a groundwater resource: D - Depth to water, R - (net) Recharge, A - Aquifer medium, S - Soil medium, T - Topography (slope), I - Impact of vadose zone and C - (hydraulic) Conductivity. These parameters are combined in an equation
that is used to produce the resultant map that identifies areas of relative (higher and lower) vulnerability.
Several information sources were analyzed to create the aquifer vulnerability maps. Key datasets include the British Columbia Ministry
of Environment's application (WELLS) that comprises a database of water-well construction records and mapped aquifer delineations. Other important information sources include soil surveys, precipitation data, a digital elevation model and terrain
classification. To address issues such as scope and consistent data coverage, the project team divided the Island by regional district boundaries to complete the intrinsic aquifer vulnerability assessment. Assessments for the regional districts of
Nanaimo (RDN) and Cowichan Valley (CVRD) were completed and are discussed in this report. The assessments for these two regional districts also allowed the project team to fine-tune the assessment to the characteristics of Vancouver Island before the
methodology is applied to the remainder of Vancouver Island. To ensure that the outputs of this project were relevant to decision-makers, staff from both the RDN and CVRD were involved in all stages of the project.
Results of the intrinsic
aquifer vulnerability assessment for RDN and CVRD indicate that confined unconsolidated aquifers represent moderate to low intrinsic vulnerability due to the presence of a confining layer with low vadose zone permeability, combined with a slightly
deeper depth to water. Unconfined, unconsolidated aquifers have a higher intrinsic vulnerability due to their relatively shallow depth to water, and permeable vadose zone and aquifer medium (reflected in the A and C parameters). Consolidated (i.e.
bedrock) aquifers have a generally moderate to low intrinsic vulnerability due to their deeper depth to water, low permeability aquifer medium, conductivity, and vadose zone ratings.
This document details the methods used to produce intrinsic
aquifer vulnerability maps for the RDN and CVRD study area, and may be used to update these maps in the future or guide the application of these methods to other areas of Vancouver Island.
The project and this document were completed in 2009 but
formally published at a later date. The contents of the report have not been altered since 2009.