MAKE US STRONGER. MAKE US MORE POWERFUL. LET'S DEFEND OUR WATERS TOGETHER!
Mayor Linton and Councillors,
A lot has happened over the last couple of months.
In May, Garry Hunter of Hunter and Associates submitted a report on Nestle’s proposal for Middlebrook to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. The report was prepared in the context of the Township’s new population growth forecasts. Centre Wellington’s population is now targeted to double by 2041. The report concludes that these new population figures present an enormous challenge to the Township’s drinking-water supply and infrastructure. We need new water sources. Commercial water-taking at Middlebrook would directly interfere and compete with the expansion of water supplies for the municipality.
On August 30 the Township’s Infrastructure manager Colin Baker and the Township’s hydrogeologist Ray Blackport responded to the Hunter report, and the response concurs with Hunter’s conclusions. In Ray Blackport’s words:
-“ With increased growth planned in Centre Wellington, as a result of the Places to Grow Act, there are additional pressures on the management of water, including increased water demand, both earlier than planned and a long-term increase in water taking in the future.”
- “Taking of large quantities of water from the Middlebrook well would restrict the ability of the Township to secure an additional source of water within close proximity to the municipally serviced area of Elora, as well as remove this water from the aquifer system thereby reducing overall available water in the Elora-Fergus area.”
- “The reality is the ‘easy’ water has been found (in other words, the water closest to the municipality and easiest to obtain without constraints). Finding new sources of groundwater will only become more difficult.”
The plan for the Township now is that a Tier 3 risk assessment is going to be carried out on municipal drinking water supplies. Save Our Water has been in favour of a Tier 3. In fact it’s something we asked for. But this is not going to be a ‘standard’ Tier 3; it is called a ‘scoped’ Tier 3, which, according to Martin Keller of the GRCA who will be overseeing the project, means that there are future scenarios that this Tier 3 will not be able to assess because not all of the needed data is available.
According to Martin Keller, “The scoped Tier 3 process will not be able to complete the full evaluation of resiliency to planned growth, since the Township of Centre Wellington has not completed their Long Term Water Supply Master Plan...The scoped Tier 3 will follow the process for a Tier 3 under the Clean Water Act, but with the exception of the planned growth piece.”
But it is this planned growth assessment that is absolutely critical here. Without the first required analysis of the township’s future water needs and supply, how will this Tier 3 assessment make any sense? Why did the province decide to put the cart before the horse here?
Is a decision about the large-scale water extraction at Middlebrook going to be made under this scenario? We hope not.
Over the past forty-eight hours we have heard in the national media about Nestle’s concern for any impacts from their water-taking on the local ecosystem. We would like our Council to be aware that, as of November 10, this company removed from their pump test design all assessments for potential negative impacts from their water-taking on the watershed and surrounding ecosystem, including provincially significant wetlands, cold-water and warm-water streams and the Grand River. Under the current pump test application as it now stands, potential impacts on the ecosystem will not be evaluated.
But, the science aside, none of the above explains why the eyes of the nation are watching the Township of Centre Wellington. We have become a ground zero for challenging the water-taking status quo. In the eyes of the nation and the world groundwater is a finite element in need of careful stewardship and protection.
On the heels of unprecedented public and media attention to the issue of consumptive water taking, on August 30 Kathleen Wynne stated that times have changed and the conditions of these permits are now outdated. She pointed out that this wholesale removal of water from Ontario’s aquifers was not a reality that was anticipated when the Permit to Take Water process was originally developed. The Ministry is currently in a process of communicating with stakeholders and reviewing and considering changes to the Permit to Take Water regulations.
The decision about Middlebrook will be made by the province, but the stance of the Township, as a key stakeholder in this process, carries considerable weight. The residents of the Township have been waiting a long time to hear the mayor and Councillors’ position on this issue.
It is clear that the community is overwhelmingly engaged in its opposition to the water-taking permit application, and in its support of robust water management for the long term sustainability of our community, which means welcoming 25,000 more people into our urban area, strong economic development, a strong agricultural sector, a healthy ecosystem, private well owners not having to worry about their water supply, and a world-class tourism sector that celebrates water.
With the Township’s recent counter-offer to purchase the Middlebrook property, council made a very clear statement: it is important to guarantee that commercial water
taking from the Middlebrook site will not impact the Township’s water supply. It is time now to follow up on this statement.
Please send a message to the Ontario government.
Councillors and mayor, will you vote on a resolution?