Protecting the esker: Eska’s role as guardian of sustainability

Aside from bringing Canadians a pure taste of nature, Eska plays the role of guardian of sustainability in protecting the Saint-Mathieu-Lac-Berry esker—a valuable, renewable resource that is constantly and carefully monitored. But what exactly is an esker, and how does Eska protect it? Keep reading to learn more! 

What is the Saint-Mathieu-Lac-Berry esker?

Located 600 km north of Montreal, Québec, the Saint-Mathieu-Lac-Berry esker is Eska’s natural water source, and has been around for thousands of years. As glaciers thawed, massive quantities of water were unleashed, creating a river that eventually became the esker. Today, this longitudinal groundwater flow is located in a virgin forest spanning over 125 km of land. Layers of fine sediments (known as glaciolacustrine clay) cover partially or completely the esker composed of sand and gravel, helping protect the esker which acts as a natural filtration system.

What makes the esker a renewable resource?

All groundwater undergoes a unique and natural process called the water cycle. This cycle is permanent and allows the esker to replenish itself. How does it work? When seas and oceans evaporate, water builds up in the clouds and turns into precipitation. Rain and snow then fall onto the ground, trickling back into rivers and lakes which ultimately return to the seas and oceans. Some of this water infiltrates the earth and mixes with groundwater flow (such as eskers), naturally replenishing its resources.

Keeping an eye on water levels

The continuous water cycle repeats itself in a cyclic way that can be called a “hydrological cycle” which covers a 12-month period. As seasons go by and the esker goes through a full hydrogeological cycle, hydrogeologists carefully monitor the groundwater levels fluctuations. Their role is to constantly observe how water levels evolve within the esker. Here’s how it works: 

  • In the spring, temperatures rise, snow melts, the soil unthaw allowing the water to recharge the aquifer, causing the water levels to rise. 
  • In the summer, precipitation is less frequent and water levels go down. 
  • In the fall, heavy rainfall brings levels up again.
  • In the winter, as the ground freezes, water levels generally go down and remain low until temperatures rise above zero.

Collecting water in harmony with nature: Our ongoing commitment

When Eska first started out in the 1990s, we did in-depth research on the esker to better understand how to protect it. We enlisted an expert team of hydrogeologists, who set up wells near the esker to analyze and interpret the groundwater flow. From there, Eska was able to obtain the necessary permits to harvest the esker’s water in a sustainable manner—and share its pure taste with Canadians.

Obtaining a permit to collect water from an esker is no easy feat. But the challenges don’t stop there! If and when the permit is granted, certain conditions must be met and a rigorous follow-up process is established, so that the esker can be monitored for the quality and quantity of water extracted from it. Special tools called groundwater data loggers are installed in the existing piezometers tapping the esker. They allow the continuous recording of the groundwater level fluctuation in the esker. And once a year, a hydrogeologist brings up these data loggers, downloads the recordings and creates piezometric graphs showing the groundwater level fluctuation over a 12-month period. This allows the hydrogeologists to analyze the behaviour of the aquifer, all to make sure the groundwater withdrawal is sustainable and in harmony with nature.

Working hand in hand with the community 

The Saint-Mathieu-Lac-Berry esker is a precious asset in the region and it remains a high quality and quantity resource to this day, thanks to a collaborative effort. Eska partners with CLD Abitibi, Abitibi CRM, the Quebec Minister of Environment and a team of hydrogeologists to protect and preserve this natural resource. There’s even the dedicated Pavillon d’interprétation de l’esker that’s open to the public. Be sure to step by next time you’re in the area! 

Eska: A true taste of nature

Eska is proud to offer Canadians the only water in North America to be harvested from an esker as natural spring water. Naturally alkaline, Eska water is pure, pristine and clear. Our water is never treated and there’s as little human intervention as possible. Nothing is added and nothing is taken away. Eska comes straight from the source, providing an unmatched taste that’s consistently true to nature.

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