SaveOurWater.CA Backgrounder

Background

The Middlebrook site is located across the road from the Elora Gorge Park, a Grand River campground and attraction known for its limestone cliffs and river views. Communities potentially affected by this water taking include Elora, Salem, and Fergus.

Formed in April 2015, Save Our Water is a growing movement of area residents committed to the protection and preservation of the Grand River watershed. We are working closely with Wellington Water Watchers to safeguard the groundwater that our communities, our wetlands, and our river ecosystems rely on.

As the group’s Twitter hashtag ‘What’s the rush?” alludes to, provincially mandated research on the Township’s water supplies, the Water Source Master Plan and a Tier Three Assessment of groundwater resources for water-stressed communities like Centre Wellington, have not yet been undertaken. Save Our Water believes that this crucial research should be completed before the Ministry considers granting more water-taking permit for the purposes of commercial bottling in the Grand River Watershed. This will ensure that groundwater resources remain sustainable for future residents and that the right of the public to clean, sustainable water supplies come before those of private corporations.

Specific concerns are:

Population pressures:

* The township of Centre Wellington, which includes Elora, Fergus, and Salem, is slated to increase about 40% in the next fifteen years, from 27,290 to 41,350 by 2031.

* If future municipal water demands increase to between 8% and 10% of the total watershed budget, the Township’s water supply availability may be at risk.

* If Nestle were to draw water at the maximum that the permit they are seeking would allow, the 1.6 million litres taken each day would only be slightly less than the water currently used each day by the Village of Elora.

Water scarcity:

* Centre Wellington is considered a water-stressed area and the province lists the Grand River as one of the province’s 36 watersheds most vulnerable to drought and low water conditions.

* The Grand River Conservation Authority uses a scale of 1-3 to identify levels of drought. Water-taking permit holders are only not subject to mandatory restrictions unless directed by the Province at Level 3

Ground water contamination

* Local residents have expressed concern that heavy pumping from the Middlebrook well site could draw contaminated water down into the aquifer and into other wells in the region.

Provincial policy governing commercial water bottling:

* There have been calls for a review of the provincial regulations that govern commercial water bottling out of a concern that they are not designed to handle growing demands on water resources for the purposes of commercial bottling.

Save Our Water has developed the following recommendations:

1. The Ministry of the Environment should hold off on a decision on the new Permit To Take Water (PTTW) application for the Middlebrook well until both a Tier 3 Water Quantity Risk Assessment (WQRA) and a municipal Water Supply Management Plan for the Township of Centre Wellington have been completed.

2. The water-taking permit applicant (Nestlé) should be required to conduct a carefully documented well-pumping test that should include private wells and continuous recording of water level data at all wells. The water level data collection should start two weeks in advance of the pump test and continue after it is over to better gauge the impact on local wells of removing water from the Middlebrook site.

3. A thorough environmental study should be conducted to demonstrate that water-taking from the Middlebrook well will not have an impact on plants, wildlife or nearby aquatic ecosystems.

4. A requirement that, if a PTTW for the Middlebrook well is granted to the applicant, a provision be added that places restrictions on water taking during droughts.

5. A full assessment of the Middlebrook site for potential well and aquifer contamination issues

Protection of groundwater resources is also resonating as a national issue among Canadians. In a Nanos poll commissioned by the Munk School of Global Affairs Program on Water Issues last May, 96% of Canadians said that it was important that groundwater use remain sustainable and not be exhausted by overuse; 81% that it is important that public access to groundwater be given priority over private access.