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The Waterloo Moraine: water, science, and policy

Growth is widely seen as the means to create employment and achieve economic prosperity. Growth also consumes natural resources. As a consequence, growth can create the potential for societal conflict where resources are limited. For example, urban development or aggregate extraction can
conflict with ecosystem preservation and recharge zone protection.
In the Canadian context, Waterloo Region (the Region) is a classical case study for this potential conflict. Economically, the Region is changing rapidly. While much of the Region¿s traditional manufacturing industry has been devastated by globalization, a new high-tech industry has emerged,
resulting in considerable urban growth. The Provincial government has supported this trend by designating Waterloo Region as one of a number of growth centres in the Province, and as a result, the population is expected to increase by 50% over the next 30 years.
Growth increases the pressure on the community¿s natural resources. In addition to land, the most critical natural resource for the Region is water. Although the Region is situated between two of North America¿s Great Lakes, access to potable water from these Lakes is complicated and expensive.
Fortunately, the Region already has an excellent source of water beneath the urban landscape ¿ the groundwater of the Waterloo Moraine. In addition to providing the Region¿s drinking water, the Moraine also assures the ecological health of streams and wetlands, and it supports a healthy agricultural
sector in the rural areas. The Moraine water resource is adequate for present use; however, it is also limited.
Growth not only increases the demand on water, but can potentially diminish the resource itself. Sprawling subdivision developments over the aquifer recharge areas can affect the quantity of water available, urban contaminants such as road salt can impact the groundwater quality, and aggregate pits
can weaken the protection of the aquifers from contaminants. Consequently, conflict can potentially arise when the growing demand tests the limits of the resource.
Water managers at the Region of Waterloo have so far been successful in striking a balance between growth, water use, and the protection of the water source, using a multi-faceted approach including demand management, delineating groundwater sensitivity zones, and constraining the urbanized area by
means of a ¿country-side line¿. The sensitivity zone concept is science-based, while the county-side line has a political origin. The latter concept is being challenged by development interests, which seek to expand residential subdivisions across the country-side line into rural areas that also
contain the main recharge areas of the Waterloo Moraine. Allowing urban sprawl into the main Moraine recharge areas has the associated risk of upsetting the recharge ¿ withdrawal balance.
The considerable effort to preserve and protect the Region¿s water source has produced a large amount of knowledge over the past 40 years, involving different branches of groundwater science. The idea for this Special Issue arose when researchers at the Geological Survey of Canada and the University
of Waterloo decided to compile an authoritative source for this body of knowledge, to be readily available to others confronted with similar land-water conflicts. The result is a set of 11 research papers by authors from government, universities, and private consultants, all with different
backgrounds and expertise, but all with a passion for groundwater. These papers cover both science and societal aspects of groundwater, they are all inter-related, but each stands on its own merit.
Frind and Middleton (2014) examine the Region¿s overall strategy for managing the complex Moraine groundwater resource and providing a reliable water source for the growing community. This successful strategy integrates the principles of sustainable water governance with a science-based
understanding of the complex Moraine system.
Bajc et al. (2014) lay the foundation for the science of the Waterloo Moraine by unravelling its depositional history during the Quaternary age. Understanding this history and applying a full range of exploratory tools including geophysical methods leads to insights into the complex
three-dimensional architecture of the Moraine, which is then used as a basis for constructing a new three-dimensional geodata-based stratigraphic model of the Moraine.
Blackport et al. (2014) integrate the geodata-based model with the large base of hydrogeological data, including water level observations and borehole logs that have been collected over the years of hydrogeological investigations of the Moraine. The result is a refined
hydrostratigraphic/hydrogeological conceptualization of the Moraine that shows the extent of the aquifers and aquitards, outlines the key recharge areas, and defines the linkages between the municipal aquifers and sensitive environmental features.
Stotler et al. (2014) demonstrates the use of environmental tracers for estimating the age of the water in the Waterloo Moraine multi-aquifer system, thus giving insight from the geochemical point of view into aquifer connectivity and continuity. The geochemical characteristics of the groundwater in
the Moraine aquifers clearly show an anthropogenic impact on the water resource from contaminants such as road salt in urban areas and fertilizers in rural areas.
Frind et al. (2014) review the historical role of modelling in the study of the Waterloo Moraine and the evolution of numerical modelling tools, which have yielded valuable insight into the dynamics of the Waterloo Moraine. The focus changed over time from well interference to capture zone analysis,
groundwater age, and the prediction of impact due to various land uses. Attention is drawn to conceptual uncertainties that may affect model-based predictive assessments.
Meyer et al. (2014) build on the historic model development and on the new geodata-based hydrogeological conceptualization to develop and calibrate a three-dimensional state-of-the-science groundwater model of the Waterloo Moraine, which is intended for use in the Region¿s groundwater program. The
model was applied in a water budget and risk assessment study for a subwatershed within the Grand River watershed.
Veale et al. (2014) examine the role of the Waterloo Moraine from the perspective of the Grand River watershed as a whole, showing the importance of the Moraine to the watershed. The interdependence between groundwater and surface water, and the role of Moraine¿s groundwater in sustaining
environmentally sensitive areas and aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, is examined. Preserving the Moraine¿s natural functions in the face of rapid growth requires adaptive management and coordinated multi-scale planning.
Sousa et al. (2014) examine the threats to groundwater resources in terms of both quantity and the quality. These threats differ for urban and rural areas; they depend on scale, and they can take on chronic as well as acute forms. The current framework for threats assessment is reviewed, and
improvements are proposed as part of a comprehensive future framework of science-based groundwater governance for Canada.
Blackport and Dorfman (2014) outline how scientific insight is translated into a policy framework for regulating the management and protection of the water resource, and how groundwater protection has been enshrined as official policy by Waterloo Region by integrating it within environmental
protection. Suggestions are made for developing a defensible policy framework for protecting groundwater sources throughout Ontario. Reconciling the uncertainty inherent in the science with the certainty expected within a policy framework remains a challenge.
Simpson and deLoë (2014 demonstrate a cooperative approach to groundwater management as an alternative to the regulatory approach based on wellhead protection planning. The collaborative approach involves diverse stakeholders in a decision-making process that integrates expert science, local
knowledge, and community beliefs and values. This approach has been successfully applied in the rural areas of Waterloo Region.
Finally, Holysh and Gerber (2014) address the fundamental issue of knowledge management (which is different from database management), using the comprehensive Oak Ridges Moraine Hydrogeology Program as an example. The objective is to make the management of water resources more effective and
efficient by providing a transparent knowledge base accessible to all users.
It is hoped that the insights offered in the papers of this Special Issue, focused on the unique challenges of managing the Waterloo Moraine water source, will be of benefit to scientists and water managers confronted with similar challenges.

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The Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Research Inventory is an
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up-to-date information about research projects in the
Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Region.