Groundwater is essential for life in arid and semiarid regions. It is also important in humid regions, and is one of the fundamental requirements for maintenance of natural landscapes and aquatic ecosystems. Many of Canada’s most sensitive ecosystems are dependent on groundwater. Yet, groundwater remains a relatively unknown resource, one which is difficult for Canadian public and for decision makers to recognize and/or understand.
Most fresh water—other than that frozen in glaciers—is found underground. In fact, all of Earth’s water found in lakes and rivers (surface water) accounts for only a tiny fraction of the world’s available freshwater resources (less than one percent). Ninety-nine percent of the Earth’s freshwater supply is groundwater found in aquifers. These numbers are for the world as a total entity. Here in Canada, we do not know the ratio between available surface freshwater resource (all rivers and lakes), and groundwater in aquifers, although we believe there is more groundwater than surface water, as with the rest of the world. Should this hypothesis be confirmed, the consequences would be enormous, making groundwater a strategic resource in coping with climate change, droughts, and pollution.
Alfonso Rivera is the chief hydrogeologist of the Geological Survey of Canada. He obtained his Ph.D. degree with honours at the National School of Mines of Paris, France in 1990. He worked for 14 years in Europe: France, Switzerland, Germany and Spain before he immigrated to Canada. Dr. Rivera designed and implemented the Geological Survey of Canada’s Groundwater Program and was its Manager from 2002 to 2012. He is adjunct professor INRS-ETE and Université de Laval; he was scientific editor of the Journal of Water Sciences (in French) for ten years, and associate editor of the Hydrogeology Journal for three years.
Dr. Rivera has specialized in groundwater modelling, hydrogeology of radioactive waste repositories, modelling coupled hydro-mechanical processes associated with land subsidence, solute transport, management of water resources, assessment of groundwater and aquifers at regional scales, and transboundary aquifers.
He has made significant contributions to groundwater sciences, and has led highly productive research teams in Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Mexico. He has provided policy advice to decision makers within Canada (Parliament, NRCan, EC, StatCan; and Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia), and has been scientific advisor to UNESCO, OAS, GEF, RAMSAR, and IAEA. In 2013, he was inducted as member of the Académie de l’Eau, France.
Dr. Rivera lives with his wife Heidi Rivera-Schnider in Quebec City, Canada.