MAPLETON – GRCA and Lake Erie Source Protection Region (LESPR) representatives told council here on Aug.13 that the township needs to be more careful when granting water extraction permits.
A preliminary water quantity assessment, part of a tier three water budget study that began almost three years ago, found nine wells in neighbouring Centre Wellington Township are “at risk.”
Using a model measuring municipal well levels and the geographical placement of aquifers, the study found that by 2041 current infrastructure would not be able to meet the demands of the projected population increase in Centre Wellington.
It also raised concern over water taking in Mapleton.
The area identified by the model as in need of protection extends into southern Mapleton Township.
“It’s essentially a flag to say, ‘Okay, in this area … we need to be more careful,’” explained LESPR program manager Martin Keller.
“It doesn’t mean that there is no additional water. Other wells can be drilled.”
However, it does mean greater consideration of water taking applications in the future.
“There needs to be additional scrutiny or studies, assessments to go forward, and that’s the kind of discussions we will have going forward to figure out what kinds of policies we would propose,” Keller said.
Assessment studies of watersheds are mandated under the Clean Water Act. The local study started with a tier one assessment in 2009 that looked at larger watershed areas.
The project team behind the tier three study includes the GRCA (Grand River Conservation Authority), LESPR and municipal staff in Centre Wellington.
There is also a provincial peer review team and R.J. Burnside and Associates Limited reviews the study on behalf of Centre Wellington and adjoining municipalities.
Keller noted the preliminary tier three study has not yet been fully completed. More in the study is needed in order to determine “what is actually driving the risk.”
The group hopes to finalize the work by the fall or winter.
While the study focuses on the quantity of water in the area, councillor Paul Douglas wondered if the risk assessment also factors in water quality.
“Specifically say, Alma is growing, or if we want Alma to grow and it’s on septic right now, are you looking at nitrate flowing in from septic systems or are there more restrictions on growth in say Alma when you are looking at these types of things?” Douglas asked.
Keller told council the study scope is limited under the Clean Water Act.
“That is a very good question … In this case it does exclude Alma because we are only looking at municipal residential drinking water systems, not private wells,” said Keller.
Councillor Dennis Craven asked if the risk assessment was going to affect the quantity of water for wells within Mapleton.
“I realize this is mostly to do with the ground water, but you did mention near the end of your talk about having to be careful,” said Craven.
Keller explained the two systems are linked.
“The focus again is on impact … we will try to protect the municipal wells so they can provide water, but the protection measures we are likely going to be discussing and coming up with policies,” Keller said.
Mayor Gregg Davidson asked whether the study found a decrease in aquifer levels and whether it has been affected by the weather.
“I guess the short answer is probably no,” replied Keller.
“Municipal draw, like the drawing of water through the municipal wells; there is going to be a decrease in the water levels around those wells.
“The question is whether that reduction … is sustainable.”