Province supports GRCA water management plan with $903,000

The Ontario government is spending $903,000 in a project to develop a water management plan for the Grand River watershed – including Centre Wellington.

Minister of Community and Social Services and Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy made the announcement in Kitchener on Jan. 12. The grant is one of 29 through the showcasing water innovation program. It is part of the Water Opportunities Act passed in 2010 to help conserve water supplies, sustain water infrastructure and make Ontario the North American leader in the development and sale of new technologies and services for water conservation and treatment.

The provincial money will pay half of the cost of developing a plan to address critical issues in the Grand River watershed:

– ensuring a sustainable water supply for communities and ecosystems;

– reducing potential flood damages; and

– improving water quality to maintain river health and reduce the Grand’s impact on Lake Erie.

The other half will be paid by the Grand River Conservation Authority, with contributions from some of the other partners in the planning process.

Milloy said the province is “seizing the opportunity to become a leader in water technologies. By tapping into our made-in-Ontario expertise, the … government is protecting our water resources, creating green industry jobs and providing water technology to the world.” The development of the water management plan has been underway for about two years. It is being led by a steering committee representing the GRCA, municipalities, provincial ministries, federal departments and First Nations. The plan is scheduled to be released by March 2013.

Chairman of the GRCA Jane Mitchell said, “The investment the Ontario government is making in the water management plan will pay dividends for decades. It will help the GRCA and the other partners of the plan make the right decisions to protect our water resources and the environment. It will help ensure the continuing health and prosperity of the residents and communities of the Grand River watershed.”

The plan involves research into water issues and the development of a series of steps to address those issues.

Some of the questions being investigated include:

– is there enough water to meet the needs of growing cities and thriving farms;?

– what are the best ways to lower water consumption;?

– what can be done to reduce the impact of sewage treatment plant effluent, farm and urban runoff on water quality;? and

– how will climate change affect the watershed and the potential for flooding?

The last comprehensive study of water issues was the 1982 Grand River basin study that gave recommendations that were implemented in the 1980s and 1990s. The new plan will bring that one up to date to address 21st century issues of population growth, climate change and intensive agriculture.

In addition to the grant to the GRCA, the province has also announced other grants to municipalities in the Grand River watershed under the showcasing water innovation program:

– Guelph and the Centre Wellington Township, along with the municipality of Chatham-Kent, are sharing a grant of $945,546 to make their water systems more efficient to reduce water losses in the distribution systems.