Whether you need a new water well or an oil and gas company wants to drill nearby, it s vital that the aquifer and your well are protected from contamination and changes in rock formations.
If you need a new well, make sure all quotes are from certified well drillers who understand the detailed information on water-bearing formations and groundwater in the area as well as regulations around wells. Alberta Agriculture water engineer Melissa Orr advises double-checking any lowball quotes for certification and what s included.
Make sure the well is sited well away from any potential contamination, such as corrals, barns, hazardous materials storage, and septic fields. Your well driller will check for obvious things, but thinking ahead may bring up old, almost forgotten hazards. Other enemies of wells are well pits, now illegal because they act as a funnel to the aquifer. Contaminants can wash in with surface water and well pits are homes for vermin and other wildlife.
Abandoned wells can also be a hazard to the aquifer and must be properly capped.
Regular monitoring and maintenance can prevent some problems and alert you to others before they become serious. Have the driller install a dip tube so you can monitor water depth and water flow into the well. The driller will perform these tests on completion of the well, but a dip tube makes it easy to check static water depth and well flow periodically and provide a record of the well s performance.
Water levels in shallow wells usually fluctuate with the seasons. In deeper wells, water levels don t change much, so any changes should be checked by a specialist. Flow changes should also be investigated. With a new well, Orr recommends chlorine shocking once a year to keep bacteria and other microbes under control.
Drilling for oil and gas may affect aquifers, but Alberta Environment needs some evidence of change to take any action. Orr advises making sure you have a record of well flow, bacteria and chemical analyses that include hydrocarbons and heavy metals taken before any work starts. Regional health units may have the analyses done or advise you on how to take samples and provide a list of labs for testing.
You can measure water depth in the well either using a dip tube or you can use a sonic device. These are quite costly, but maybe worthwhile for a group of farmers to invest in to develop records of well performance before and after any oil and gas activity in the area. Seismic testing causes shallow disturbances that have been shown can affect shallow wells or springs.