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Find artesian wells and aquifers before you build

Water aquifers and flowing artesian wells exist below the ground in some areas of south Vancouver along the Fraser River.

Advisories from both the Province of BC and the City of Vancouver warn that you and your contractors may cause flooding if you dig, drill, and excavate into these areas without preparation and qualifications. 

It could cost you millions of dollars to decommission a well that cannot handle flowing artesian conditions.

About artesian aquifers

An artesian aquifer is a layer of pressurized water captured between layers of underground rock.

When you dig a hole or well into the aquifer, the pressure forces the water up and out to the ground surface where it continues to flow. A flowing artesian well can cause substantial damage and incur significant and unexpected costs.

For example, in 2015 an unlicensed and unqualified well driller tapped a pressurized aquifer in Kerrisdale and released 2 million litres of water a day into the neighbourhood. Almost a dozen homes had to evacuate.

News: Untamed torrent of well water threatens multi-million dollar Vancouver homes (Vancouver Sun, 2015)

Flowing artesian wells in Vancouver

There are three known wells in the city of Vancouver, and one in neighbouring Burnaby. General artesian well conditions are located in UBC and University Endowment Lands, Dunbar-Southlands, Kerrisdale, Marpole, Sunset, Victoria-Fraserview, and Killarney areas. It is possible there are other wells, but they haven't been registered with the BC WELLS database.

The wells have depths between 25 and 73 metres. A well's speed of flow can be up to 1,363 square metres per day, or 250 US gallons per minute.  

Prevent flooding in an artesian aquifer location

Home owners

  • Secure a permit. A building permit has a geotechnical and potentially a hydrogeological component. The permit includes a report, schedule, and the requirement of a geotechnical engineer. 
  • Hire a driller or professional who is registered with the Province and is qualified and experienced with flowing artesian conditions. 
  • Review the City of Vancouver VanMap of artesian well locations. Have an agreement in place with your contractor to deal with flowing artesian conditions.
  • Recognize the real risks and your liability to neighbours and other if an uncontrolled flow causes damage.

Contractors

  • Ensure you have experience and equipment to deal with flowing artesian conditions.
  • Review the City of Vancouver VanMap of artesian well locations.
    Alert! You should assume flowing artesian conditions if you are contracted to work in this area.
  • Inform your client of the potential risks and associated costs of flowing artesian wells. 

Requirements and resources

Anyone in BC constructing a well must be registered as a well driller or be working under the supervision of a registered well driller or a professional (engineer or geoscientist, with competency in hydrogeology or geotechnical engineering).

Registered well drillers must also be classified and have the qualifications required to work on the particular class of well that they are working on. For example, water supply wells, geoexchange wells, and dewatering wells.