Water Quality Research Journal of Canada

Vol. 36 (3): 565 - 588 (2001). Sediment Remediation

Farm Well Water Quality in Alberta

   Robert Audette, David S. Chanasyk, Darcy Fitzgerald, Dave Kiely, R. D. Neilson

Abstract
On-farm groundwater supplies in Alberta were evaluated for chemical (routine chemistry, trace metals), herbicides and microbiological (total and fecal coliforms) parameters to determine the suitability of domestic drinking water usage based on the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (GCDWQ). The sampling program was conducted between May and October of 1995 and 1996. Thirty-two percent of the 816 farm water wells surveyed (depth range 2 to 284 m) exceeded the GCDWQ for maximum acceptable concentration (MAC) or interim maximum acceptable concentration (IMAC) of at least one parameter. In addition, the water from 92% of the sites exceeded the GCDWQ for at least one of the aesthetic objectives (AO). The chemicals were ranked from most to least frequently exceeding the GCDWQ MAC, in the following order: F >> NO3 –N + NO2–N > As > Se > Pb > B > U > Cr (13, 6, 3, 3, 2, 0.9, 0.4 and 0.2% of all samples, respectively). The parameters ranked from most to least frequently, exceeding the AO, in the following order: TDS > Na > Fe > Mn > pH > SO4 > Cl > Al > Zn > Cu (85, 64, 36, 34, 23, 19, 6, 2, 1 and 0.1 % of the samples, respectively). The majority of the higher concentrations of most inorganic parameters are due to natural geological conditions defined by source aquifer mineralogy. The effects of primary agriculture are likely limited to the 3% herbicide detections and to some nitrate and microbiological contaminations observed; this water should not be used for human consumption without some form of site-specific treatment. Some rural residents may be “mistreating” their water, and a general lack of water testing among rural residents was noted.

Keywords
aquifers, coliforms, groundwater, herbicides, nitrates, trace metals

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