Nestlé’s proposed water taking could undermine Centre Wellington’s growth strategy. Hunter Report #1

The township’s water is already at risk, according to a study of the township’s wells and water use.  Prepared by Hunter and Associates Environmental and Engineering Consultants, and submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change on May 13, 2016, the report reveals vulnerabilities in Centre Wellington’s municipal water system which could be further stressed by Nestlé’s planned commercial extraction.

Drawing on monitoring records, historical well records, water level records and other township documents, the report identifies that we have a problem here even without Nestle. The Township’s infrastructure for drinking water already faces a variety of challenges.

Centre Wellington relies solely on groundwater. Under the Places to Grow Act, as of early 2016 the Fergus-Elora urban area was targeted to double in population by 2041, requiring its water system to service an additional 22,000 residents. These numbers are both larger than anticipated and earlier than planned. The Township will need new wells.

The report concludes that if the Nestlé permit is approved, this will interfere with the expansion of the township’s well system. The Middlebrook well’s capacity is three times that of many township wells. Nestlé proposes to take as much as 1.6 million litres of water per day (1,000 litres per minute) from the Middlebrook site, which is within the municipal boundary. This will directly compete with water supplies for Fergus-Elora to support the provincially mandated growth.

High-volume commercial water taking at Middlebrook will hinder the municipality in efficiently developing infrastructure, not only by removing water, but also by removing from the equation a whole potential source area west of Elora for future municipal supply.

The question is: How is Centre Wellington’s infrastructure going to have to expand to handle this planned growth? What are the options, and what are the plans? The assumption at the provincial level is that communities have their future municipal water infrastructure organized.

The Hunter study is a wake-up call for Centre Wellington. The Township’s counter-offer to purchase the Middlebrook well in order to protect municipal water security is a very clear statement that Nestlé at Middlebrook would be a serious threat to the township’s water system.

Hunter’s study, prepared on behalf of interested ratepayers of Centre Wellington, was sent to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and then shared with Centre Wellington’s Mayor, Council and staff, MPP Ted Arnott, Wellington County planners, policy directors in several ministries and other stakeholders. It is available by request by contacting the Save Our Water website.

A second report is expected in fall 2017, which will deal further with municipal well production and water quality. Stay tuned for report #2.

Some quick facts from the report:

  • The water taking at Middlebrook at the west edge of Elora would be equivalent in volume to the daily supply of 3 of the 8 municipal wells.
  • The City of Guelph’s well protection zone is currently extending close to the south end of Fergus.
  • About 2,000 m3 per day of new production is required for each future 5-year planning period.
  • Capacity has been tested at municipal wells, but not capacity without mutual operational interference of wells pumping simultaneously and water quality deterioration at high pumping rates.
  • Some wells running at full capacity would impact private wells in the area.
  • To produce effectively in this aquifer the wells should be 2 km apart.