Looking after water in North Grenville
At the end of April, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) reported abnormally dry conditions across the watershed due to an early spring and limited rain.
They indicated that water levels and flows across the Rideau Valley watershed are currently well bellow normal for this time of year. This includes flows on the Rideau, Jock and Tay Rivers and the South Branch River, which are all between 30-40% of typical seasonal averages.
According to RVCA Manager of Engineering Services, Brian Stratton, low water conditions in the Rideau watershed will affect aquatic habitat to some degree depending on the severity and duration of the drought event. A 2020 RVCA report also indicated that low water levels could affect local golf courses who rely on irrigation from smaller waterbodies that may dry out, boating on the Rideau Canal system as well as other uncontrolled lakes, agricultural operations, private wells that rely on shallow groundwater sources, and municipal water systems that draw water from surface water supplies.
Brian says that because the town of Kemptville relies on an aquifer that is very deep and plentiful, it is unlikely that a dry spring and summer will affect our water supply. While private wells could be impacted, Brian notes that this doesn’t happen very often within the RVCA area. “For the most part our private wells continue to work,” he says.
In drought situations, the RVCA enacts the Rideau Valley Water Response Team (RVWRT) which is comprised of their municipal partners, the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of the Solicitor General, and Parks Canada. If needed, representatives from private sector water takers such as farmers, golf course operators, and the aggregates/industrial/construction industry are also included.
The primary goal of the RVWRT is to provide a forum for the sharing of information amongst water managers and water takers, and promote cooperative decision making when it comes to actions to be taken to conserve water in the early stages of and throughout drought events. The press release in April stated that RVCA staff were preparing to enact the RVWRT due to low water levels, although Brian noted they were waiting to see how much rain falls before they schedule their first meeting.
While the RVWRT is one way to protect water sources in the community, Brian says they mainly provide suggestions to the public about how to conserve water in drought situations. Large water takers, who take more that 50,000 litres of water from ground and surface water sources a day, are required to apply for a permit with the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks. Permit holders are legally required to record how much water they take each day as well as its purpose, location and water source (ground or surface). Spokesperson for the Ministry, Gary Wheeler, confirmed that there are currently 13 active permits to take water for 12 different corporations in North Grenville. This includes Coco Properties Corporation, Cornwall Gravel Company Limited, Equinelle Developments Inc., G. Tackaberry & Sons Construction Company Limited, Glenview Homes (Kemptville) Ltd., Lafarge Canada Inc., Oxford Village Inc., Peterson’s Turf Farms Ltd., R.W. Tomlinson Limited, The Corporation of the Municipality of North Grenville, White Bear Mining Corporation, and Willis Kerr Contracting Limited. Brian says the RVCA has taken a look at all of these companies and that the suspension of any of these permits would not make much of a difference on North Grenville’s water supply. “We kind of know that there’s no water takers that are killing it for everybody,” he says.
The municipality itself is currently looking at an international initiative which will help protect its water now and into the future. The Blue Communities Project encourages municipalities and Indigenous communities to pass a resolution recognizing water and sanitation as human rights; banning or phasing out the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events; and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and wastewater services.
The project is being championed by the municipality’s Environmental Action Advisory Committee, who passed a resolution at their last meeting at the end of March to bring the initiative and its resolutions to council and staff. Chair of the committee, Amy Ivany, says becoming a Blue Community would put some weight behind some of the environmental priorities that are already in the council work plan. “It kind of elevates North Grenville to really doing what they say they’re going to do within the council work plan, and kind of living what they’re talking and saying these are important to our community,” she says.
According to Amy, part of what they have recommended to council also has to do with making the commitment to promote the protection of local water sources and private wells. “This is very much a feel-good type of resolution that just helps ensure we heighten these priorities within our community and that we’re being held to a good standard on that,” she says. “It doesn’t override anything that is actually legal in nature, but if anything, it could be an enhancement to some of those things to ensure that we acknowledge how important they are.”