How the heck do you even get groundwater?

Hopefully you now know that I spend a lot of time deep underground moving through sand grains, rocks and gravel in what I like to call an aquifer.

I do a lot for you. You drink me, cook and wash with me, and so much more.

But have you ever asked yourself “if groundwater is deep underground, how the heck do we get it to where I am?” Well, we use…wells.

Perhaps a wishing well comes to mind. As a child maybe you tossed a coin over your shoulder and made a wish. Bring back memories? What did you wish for? Did your wishes come true?

Illustration of wishing well
Have you ever tossed a coin in a wishing well?

Today’s wells don’t typically look like wishing wells. And even though the Region of Waterloo has hundreds scattered throughout Waterloo Region, you probably have never noticed them in your travels.

So what is a well? A well is a metal pipe put into the ground to extract groundwater. Think of it like a big drinking straw.

First, a deep hole is drilled into the ground. How deep depends on how far down I’m hiding. Region of Waterloo municipal wells usually start around 30 metres (100 feet) deep and can reach depths of over 100 metres (330 feet). Once the hole is drilled, a metal pipe is placed inside. At the bottom of the pipe are slits covered with a screen allowing me to enter the pipe.

persons using equipment to drill a well
Drilling a hole for the well.

The Region of Waterloo uses two types of wells – supply wells and monitoring wells.

Supply wells move the groundwater from underground to above ground for you to use. A pump pushes me up the well. It’s probably like you spending the day on the rides at the fall fair. Once I get to the top of the well I go through a treatment process and tested to make sure I am good to go for you to drink. After that I hitch a ride through underground pipes to your home.

The supply well is located inside or beside a pump house. Operation of the well is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from a central location. From this location the operator can control how much of me is pumped through the well. The Region of Waterloo manages over 120 supply wells throughout Waterloo Region.

top of well showing pump motor
Region of Waterloo manages over 120 wells that supply groundwater to homes and businesses.

The other type of well is a monitoring well. Monitoring wells collect information on the health of the groundwater. This includes collecting samples to test for water quality and to measure groundwater levels in the aquifer. Monitoring wells are placed near supply wells or along the path groundwater takes underground to reach the supply well. For each supply well, monitoring wells are drilled at different depths to provide information on the aquifer from different layers or locations. The Region of Waterloo manages over 400 monitoring wells throughout Waterloo Region.

top of monitoring well
Region of Waterloo manages over 400 monitoring wells that collect information on the health of groundwater.

Have you ever asked yourself “if groundwater is deep underground, how the heck do we get it to where I am?” Well, we use…wells. #iamgroundwaterblog

4 cool facts you might not know about me.

Groundwater here. Unlike my friends in lakes and streams, I don’t always get the attention I deserve. Now that I have my own blog, I’d like to share some interesting facts about me.

illustration of groundwater aquifer
Illustration of aquifer where you find groundwater
  1. I live underground. I am the rain and the melted snow that soaks into the ground. You live in a home above ground – I live in an aquifer underground. An aquifer is the layers of sand grains, rocks and gravel found underground. When I soak into the ground, I fill up the spaces between the sand grains, rocks and gravel. It’s like a big apartment building for water droplets, except it’s underground.
  2. I am always moving. I might not move as fast as my cousins above ground in streams and rivers but I am always moving. Moving underground between the sand grains, rocks and gravel is hard work. Think of it like going through a maze in the dark. How long I stay underground is hard to say, could be days or years. But at some point I rejoin my cousins above ground in a stream, river or lake and go through the water cycle once again.
  3. You have a doctor, I have a hydrogeologist. Hydrogeologists study me and keep me healthy. To do this, they use the geology of the land to understand how I move underground. Knowing how groundwater interacts with the materials underground helps the hydrogeologist figure out the path I take underground and how long that journey might take.
  4. Sand cleans me. When you are dirty you probably take a shower or a bath. And if you live in Waterloo Region I most likely dropped by for a visit. Sand is my shower. When I am travelling underground, I move through sand grains that help clean me.

There you go – four cool facts about me. I’d love to hear from you. Share your cool facts about groundwater. And if you learned something new today that you found interesting I’d love to hear about that as well.

Unlike groundwater’s friends in lakes and streams, groundwater doesn’t always get the attention deserved. 4 cool facts you might not know about groundwater. #iamgroundwaterblog

Water: it’s what connects us


Our planet earth has always had the same amount of water. The water we use today was also there for the dinosaurs to drink. And through the water cycle, water can be found everywhere. It is always moving and changing states as a liquid, solid or gas.

water cycle
Illustration of the water cycle

Water can be found in streams, rivers and lakes. It’s in the air and underground. It is the glaciers, rain and snow. And it’s in our food, plants and bodies.

Earth, also known as the blue planet, has a lot of water – about 71 per cent of our planet is covered in water. But how much of it is drinkable fresh water? First look at the oceans – that’s a lot of water. In fact 97 per cent of all water is salt water – water we can’t drink without desalinating or removing the salt. That leaves three per cent remaining as fresh water. About two per cent of all fresh water on our planet can be found underground as groundwater. Water is always travelling, even if it has to take the slow route, underground through rocks and dirt.

Video: NASA | Earth Science Week: Water, Water Everywhere!

Locally Waterloo Region is part of the Grand River watershed managed by the Grand River Conservation Authority. But what is a watershed? Is it a shed made out of water? Nope. A watershed is an area of land that drains into the same body of water. Think of it like a tree branch. In Waterloo Region groundwater seeps into small waterways such as Schneider’s Creek, Laurel Creek and Mill Creek that drain into the larger Grand River. The Grand River and many other watersheds drain into Lake Erie and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean.

Video: What is a watershed

Have you ever watched the National Film Board movie “Paddle to the Sea”? The movie reminds me of a watershed. It is about a child who carves out a man in a canoe and sets it on a frozen stream waiting for the spring thaw. The movie follows the canoe as it travels from the stream to larger waterways and finally to the ocean.

The water cycle and the fact we all live in a watershed are reminders we all share the same water and we all live downstream from someone else. And why we all have a role to play when it comes to protecting water.

What do you think are the biggest issues for water? What steps should our community take to protect water? Do you have tips to share that can help others be water protectors?

Water connects us. Waterloo Region is in the Grand River watershed. All water in the watershed drains into Lake Erie and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. We all live downstream and we all need to protect water. #iamgroundwaterblog

Get to know groundwater


illustration of groundwater aquifer

Hi, I’m groundwater. You might not realize it but you and me – we spend a lot of time together. You drink me, cook and wash with me and so much more.

When you turn on the tap do you ever wonder how I get there? It’s a bit of a journey for me. I get a lot of help along the way to make sure I’m clean and safe for you to drink.

Join me on my adventures! Learn about me – your drinking water. Find out where I live, how I get to your tap and what you can do to help keep me healthy. You can also find more on the Region of Waterloo website.

I want to hear from you. Share your ideas or ask me a question and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Cheers, Groundwater.

You might not realize it but you and groundwater spend a lot of time together. Groundwater is the water you drink, cook and wash with and so much more. Check out the I Am Groundwater blog to learn more. #iamgroundwaterblog