Ministry of Environment
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Report: Indicators of Groundwater Drought in British Columbia

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This study analyzed groundwater level data from provincial observation wells to develop early season and drought season core indictors of groundwater drought that can be used for drought-related decision-making in B.C. The study further developed an approach for mapping the drought susceptibility of aquifers and demonstrating this approach in the Okanagan Basin.

Author:  April Gullacher, Diana M. Allen, Jonathan D. Goetz

Date Published:  Jan 2023

Report ID:  60200

Audience:  Government and Public

This study developed early season and drought season core indictors of groundwater drought by analyzing groundwater level data from provincial observation wells in three study regions. Groundwater level data were first examined seasonally to identify individual climate and hydrological predictor variables that appear to influence summer groundwater levels. Generalized additive models (GAMs) were used to explore associations between predictor variables and summer groundwater levels. Based on the individual predictor variables that resulted in the most statistically robust GAMs, the predictor variables were combined to create multi-parameter GAMs for each study region. In South Central B.C., maximum spring temperature, maximum snow water equivalent, and the winter ENSO 3.4 index was the best combination of climate predictor variables. In the Fraser Valley, the maximum spring temperature, winter precipitation, and spring streamflow was the best combination of climate predictor variables. For the Gulf Islands, the GAMs did not produce well fitted summer groundwater levels. In addition to identifying predictor variables of groundwater drought, the use of the standardized groundwater level index (SGI) was explored as a potential drought season core indicator of groundwater drought. Overall, the SGI appears to be a good indicator to retroactively check how the groundwater levels responded to periods of drought and to non-drought years. Finally, aquifer susceptibility to drought was examined for the Okanagan Basin. An aquifer drought susceptibility matrix was created using published hydraulic diffusivity values for different aquifer types, as well as the well density of each aquifer. The classification identified five highly susceptible aquifers and 23 moderately susceptible aquifers. Additionally, these classifications were consistent with observations of surface water and groundwater problems made by participants of a workshop in October 2019.

Report Type
  Meteorological - Rain or Snow - Rain
  Meteorological - Rain or Snow - Snow
  Region - Province Wide
  Water Information - Groundwater
  Water Information - Water Management

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