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Applying the 'Play' concept to archetypal Canadian Surficial Aquifers

The Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) is currently assessing 30 key Canadian aquifers. This represents a small fraction of the aquifers in Canada. Consequently, there is a need for an aquifer classification that can synthesize information on archetypal surficial aquifers. A simple
glacial landform or depositional facies model approach fails to integrate the complexity of geographic, geological and hydrological controls on the occurrence of aquifers. One approach is the play concept of the petroleum industry that involves the three components of source, reservoir, and trap.
These concepts have direct parallels to aquifers as hydrology, aquifer, and confining units. The surficial aquifer play type is identified by a compound play definition based on landforms and/or stratigraphic architecture followed by depositional environment (e.g. moraine, subaqueous fan). In the
embryonic application of the play concept to aquifer studies completed primarily by the GSC, but also described in the broader literature, we provide a cursory review of the play types for archetypal surficial aquifers within the list of 30 key Canadian Aquifers. The play type may be characterized
by data on sediment facies, physical properties, geophysical signatures, geochemistry, hydrochemistry, hydrology, etc. At the landform / stratigraphic architecture level, six play types for unconsolidated key Canadian aquifers are presented, i) bedrock interface buried valleys, ii) sediment hosted
buried valleys, iii) moraines, iv) glacilacustrine / glacimarine basins, v) postglacial lacustrine / marine basin vi) post glacial valley settings etc. qualified by appropriate depositional settings. Integrated with the depositional setting (e.g subaqueous fan, delta) the play type can be further
refined to understanding flow pathways, aquifer heterogeneity, aquifer compartmentalization, aquifer potential and aquifer vulnerability.
Application of the play concept to hydrogeology offers the same opportunity as in the hydrocarbon context, of providing an analogue for aquifers that may have received less study but have similar characteristics. The play concept can also provide a framework to discuss groundwater extraction from
different areas based on similar aquifer and hydraulic conditions.

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