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A massive aerial survey of the North Peace is set to lift off this week to map the region’s groundwater resources.

The two-year, $2.1 million Peace Project operation led by Geoscience BC will be mapping out an 8,000-square kilometre set of lands around the Cameron and Halfway rivers, along with the Cache and Farrell creeks.

“In this region, groundwater is poorly understood,” said Carlos Salas, vice-president of energy with Geoscience BC.

“We don’t really know where groundwater exists. This is a… great big expanse of area to get that information. “

Geoscience has teamed up with Bailey Helicopters to do the flying, and SkyTEM Canada, which will provide the 340-square metre hexagon-shaped unit that will hang suspended in the air beneath the helicopter, and will blast electromagnetic currents more than 300 metres into the ground.

What researchers will eventually get back is a seismic picture of the earth showing them where underground aquifers are located, how much water exists, how deep its located, and whether its potable or not.

“We must understand it to know what’s going on,” Salas said.

“Being able to understand exactly where the groundwater is, and being able to protect it, because you don’t want to start polluting your groundwater because its going to be coming into your rivers.”

The project is expected to launch July 10, and carry on through until the end of August. Activity will be concentrated in the areas of Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, Pink Mountain, and Wonowon areas.

Scientists will spend the next two years analyzing the data, and drilling groundwater monitoring wells in areas to expand their findings.

That information will help shape the Northeast Water Strategy, announced earlier this year, a blueprint on how to monitor and manage water resources in the region between municipalities, First Nations, and industry.

Much of the projects support is coming from the industry — major players include the BC Oil and Gas Commission, ConocoPhillips Canada, and Progress Energy.

Salas said the data will be used by industry for use in their operations.

“If you are drilling, you want to make sure you set surface casings in the right spot, so you are protecting the groundwater,” he said.

The Peace River Regional District, along with several provincial ministries, and Northern Development Initiative Trust are also involved.

Geoscience has conducted a similar aquifer study in the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson, and water inventory study in the Montney basin.

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