No. R.S.V.P. required. Your exclusive tour of groundwater’s home.

It might not be Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous but for me it’s home. Entering my home might not be obvious. For you, a knock on a door or a turn of a key, and you’re in. For me it’s a bit trickier. It starts with me as a raindrop. After parachuting in from the clouds I soak into the ground to recharge my home, the aquifer.

Groundwater’s word of the day: Recharge, also called infiltration, is when water is added back into the aquifer. This can happen through precipitation such as rain fall or when snow melts or from water seeping into the aquifer from surface water such as a pond or stream.

So what is an aquifer? First, to find an aquifer you have to look down. Believe it or not, where you are standing right now, there could be an aquifer underneath you. It might take some work digging down to get to it, but it’s there.

Believe it or not, where you are standing right now, there could be an aquifer beneath you.

When you dig into the ground, what do you find? Dirt, sand, rocks. Theses are all materials that can be found in an aquifer. What materials are in the aquifer depend on the geology of the land and how it was formed a long, long time ago. Glaciers played an important role carving out the land. The materials left behind when the glaciers retreated or melted helped form the aquifers, including the Waterloo Moraine where recharge for some of the aquifers begins in Waterloo Region.

The Waterloo Moraine consists of thick deposits of sand and gravel, separated by clay layers, where large quantities of recharge help supply the water to the Region’s water supply wells. The map shows the Regional recharge areas of the Waterloo Moraine where sand is exposed at the surface allowing the recharge into the aquifers.

But make not mistake, recharge happens everywhere beneath your feet, not just the green areas.

Map of Waterloo Region showing recharge areas of the Waterloo Moraine in green

Aquifers in much of Waterloo Region consist of sand and gravel with layers of clay. The exception is most of Cambridge where the aquifers are in bedrock.

Getting back to me parachuting from the clouds and soaking into the ground…once I have soaked into the ground, I look for spaces between the different materials – sand, gravel or bedrock. Those spaces might look tiny to you but for me, they’re plenty big.

Hands-on activity: Place some pebbles or marbles in a glass. They represent the sand or gravel in an aquifer. Look closely at the pebbles/marbles. Do you see spaces? Now pour water into the glass. This represents the recharging or adding water back into the aquifer. Where does the water go? Does it sit on top of the pebbles/marbles or does it fill up the spaces?

Groundwater Foundation instructional video on how to make an aquifer in a cup

That’s what an aquifer is, an area underground filled with groundwater – me – in the spaces between the sand grains, rock or gravel.

Illustration of an aquifer

And once I’m there I don’t sit still. Water doesn’t like to stay in one place for too long. So while I’m underground, I’m slowly moving a few metres per year through the spaces between the sand, rock or gravel. Eventually I’ll make my way into a stream and evaporate as part of the water cycle before parachuting down from the clouds to recharge an aquifer once again.

So there you have it. Hopefully you now have a better idea of where I live. And if you are looking for something to do that involves ice cream, check out this edible aquifers recipe. It’s a fun and tasty way to learn more about my home.

Cheers, Groundwater