René Lefebvre's seminar, INRS, Québec

Towards the development of a sustainable management framework for water resources

René Lefebvre's seminar, 2019


Water resources, both surface and underground, have multiple uses and play a major ecological role. These resources, however, face many risks of degradation of their quantity or quality. To ensure the sustainability of this resource, it is therefore essential to manage it sustainably. This presentation describes the draft of a management framework that could be applied at various spatial scales. The elements of this framework are illustrated with examples from work done in Quebec. The presentation focuses on the technical aspects of the management framework but emphasizes the central importance of the human and social sciences to ensure the active involvement of stakeholders in the development and implementation of the management framework.
The management of water resources first requires the development of a coherent legal and regulatory framework. In Quebec, the availability of such a framework is very recent and the main milestones for the development of this framework are represented by the BAPE's public consultation on Water Management in Quebec (2000), the National Water Policy (2002), the Water Act (2009), the Groundwater Knowledge Program (PACES) (2008) and the Water Levy and Protection Regulations (2014). The Water Act has proclaimed that water is a common good that must be protected by the state through sustainable management that must be based on knowledge of the resource. Since 2009, Québec has made significant investments to develop knowledge of groundwater resources that were relatively unknown in relation to surface water. PACES has supported regional projects carried out by universities since 2009 and the entire Quebec municipal territory will have been covered by 2022. A brief description will be given of the standardized information produced by PACES. This program has also enabled the active involvement of regional partners in the implementation of projects, including Watershed Organizations (OBV) and Regional County Municipalities (RCMs). Numerous technical and scientific tools have been developed during regional projects: characterization approach, evaluation of regional hydraulic properties, geological and conceptual models, estimation of spatially distributed recharge, and exploitation of groundwater geochemistry to understand aquifer systems. Efforts have also been made to transfer knowledge to regional partners, including through the use of sustainable management indicators. Work in progress uses the results of PACES to assess the impact of climate change on groundwater resources over a 36,000 km2 territory south of the St. Lawrence River. This work puts a particular emphasis on the relationships between aquifers and rivers and on the development of tools to exploit the groundwater monitoring network. The knowledge and tools available must, however, be used together in a sustainable management framework for groundwater resources. Such a framework must be integrated, connected, intelligent and intelligible. The main components of this framework will be described during the presentation and the scales to which this framework could be applied will be highlighted.