• Banff National Park, photographed here at Baker Lake in July 2010, contains hot springs. These springs form when groundwater, running deep underground, is heated by the Earth and flows back to the surface. (Davin Martinson/CG Photo Club)
    Banff National Park, photographed here at Baker Lake in July 2010, contains hot springs. These springs form when groundwater, running deep underground, is heated by the Earth and flows back to the surface. (Davin Martinson/CG Photo Club)

It may be hard to believe for the average person who spends the majority of his or her life above ground, but Canada has more water underground than it does on the surface. This massive subterranean water supply collects in aquifers and often makes its way to the surface by forming into a spring or flowing into a river or lake, sometimes traveling hundreds of kilometres underground to get there. About one in four Canadians rely on groundwater for their water needs, including the entire province of Prince Edward Island.

Unfortunately it can be easy to contaminate groundwater, but extremely difficult to reverse the contamination. The number of known contaminated aquifers in Canada is expected to rise in coming decades as more contaminated groundwater is discharged into lakes and rivers. Once contaminated, an aquifer may be spoiled for decades.

How to protect your groundwater
There are two main pillars of groundwater protection: keeping it safe from contamination and not overusing the supply. Here are ten tips from The Groundwater Foundation on how to do just that.

1. Go Native
Use native plants in your landscape. They look great, and don't need much water or fertilizer. Also choose grass varieties for your lawn that are adapted for your region's climate, reducing the need for extensive watering or chemical applications.

2. Reduce Chemical Use
Use fewer chemicals around your home and yard, and make sure to dispose of them properly - don't dump them on the ground!

3. Manage Waste
Properly dispose of potentially toxic substances like unused chemicals, pharmaceuticals, paint, motor oil, and other substances. Many communities hold household hazardous waste collections or sites - contact your local health department to find one near you.

4. Don't Let It Run
Shut off the water when you brush your teeth or shaving, and don't let it run while waiting for it to get cold. Keep a pitcher of cold water in the fridge instead.

5. Fix the Drip
Check all the faucets, fixtures, toilets, and taps in your home for leaks and fix them right away, or install water conserving models.

6. Wash Smarter
Limit yourself to just a five minute shower, and challenge your family members to do the same! Also, make sure to only run full loads in the dish and clothes washer.

7. Water Wisely
Water the lawn and plants during the coolest parts of the day and only when they truly need it. Make sure you, your family, and your neighbors obey any watering restrictions during dry periods.

8. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Reduce the amount of "stuff" you use and reuse what you can. Recycle paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum and other materials.

9. Nature's Best
Use all natural/nontoxic household cleaners whenever possible. Materials such as lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar make great cleaning products, are inexpensive, and environmentally-friendly.

10. Learn and Do More!
Get involved in water education! Learn more about groundwater and share your knowledge with others.

Additional Resources
Canadian Geographic: Protect your watershed
Environment Canada
Natural Resources Canada
Groundwater Information Network
National Groundwater Association
The Groundwater Foundation