The Basin Analysis Project focuses on characterizing and mapping the physical and chemical properties of groundwater and the physical properties of water-bearing geological units at the regional scale within the sedimentary basin of Alberta. The physical properties of water-bearing units directly control the rate and direction of groundwater flow, important to estimating the recoverable amounts of groundwater present (groundwater availability). The goals of the project focus on characterizing the hydrogeological regime (i.e., from data compilation and geological conceptualization to model development) and, ultimately, producing a dynamic model of groundwater flow. Current projects include hydrogeological mapping within the Belly River Group and Wapiti Formation (see below) and developing a regional-scale numerical groundwater flow model for the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB).
Current efforts in the Belly River Group and Wapiti Formation include regional mapping of hydraulic heads, total dissolved solids, and density-corrected flow directions. The Belly River Group and Wapiti Formation are one of the shallowest, economically important hydrocarbon-producing units within Alberta and serve as a significant water source for domestic consumption and increasingly for unconventional hydrocarbon recovery operations. A better understanding of the flow directions, quality, and availability of water in the Belly River Group and Wapiti Formation will aid in managing groundwater in Alberta.
Current numerical modelling efforts are directed towards quantifying regional groundwater flow in the major non-saline aquifers of the WCSB and establishing a modelling framework for implementing smaller-scale groundwater management models. The Southern Alberta Regional Groundwater Simulation (SARGS) Project covers approximately 420 000 km2 of the WCSB and includes geological units ranging from Cretaceous to Quaternary in age (see below). Major aquifers included in SARGS include the Paskapoo, Scollard, Horseshoe Canyon, and Wapiti formations, and the Belly River Group.
Regional maps of hydraulic heads, total dissolved solids, and density-corrected flow directions for the Belly River – Wapiti hydrogeological unit are expected to be released in early 2016. The SARGS report and groundwater model in USGS MODFLOW will also be released in early 2016.