I wanted to update our residents as of June 13th about the current watering ban in Saint-Lazare. Since in place, we can see in our data that there has been a great effort from our residents to reduce consumption. I want to thank everyone for doing what is needed to protect our precious water resources, we totally understand it’s not easy! Having said that, mother nature is not cooperating, and we haven’t had the rain needed to recharge our aquifer. Weather experts are predicting a dry summer and not much relief ahead in the next few weeks. We’ll need to keep being vigilant and continue to reduce our consumption until our aquifers are in a safe zone and healthy. This is a collective effort, we’re all in this together!
Here are some answers to the questions you keep asking. I’m answering to the best of my knowledge and with information provided by our town engineers and experts.
Q. WHY IS SAINT-LAZARE GOING THROUGH A WATERING BAN?
It’s really a combination of different factors; overconsumption, people being home due to the pandemic and doing more landscaping projects, little snow in the winter, and droughts 2 years in a row. Yes, added population will demand more water, but our infrastructures were built with growth in mind and under normal times and “normal usage”, it wouldn’t be a factor since we haven’t reached the maximum capacity forecasted.
I would like to mention that we take our water from the ground, and it can take a long time to recharge and is also highly dependable the infiltration of rainfall and surface water. The time it takes to recharge depends on if it’s confined (much slower) or unconfined aquifers (faster). We apparently draw water from 6 different aquifers. (see picture as example. Source wikimedia.org)
3. Unsaturated zone
4. Water table
5. Confined aquifer
6. Unconfined aquifer
7. Deep well
8. Sort well
9. Artesian well
Q. WHY DOES THE TOWN HAVE WATERING BANS EVERY YEAR?
Actually, we don’t have watering bans every year. We did have one in 2020, but having lived here for over 23 years, I don’t recall the last time before that Saint-Lazare has had a full watering ban. We do however like every other town have watering restrictions in the summer, which sets the day and time people can water their grass. With climate change, the experts predict more extreme weather, which means the issue of droughts and less snow that we’ve experienced will most likely continue in the years to come. This is something we need to keep in mind and carefully plan for.
The following are the years in which an outdoor drinking water ban has been decreed over the past 20 years:
2010 (cause: major water system failure)
2018 (cause: Saddlebrook plant failure, only this area was affected by the ban)
Q. WHY DOESN’T THE TOWN UPGRADE THE WATER INFRASTRUCTURES?
The town invested close to $11 million in 2013 to expend the Sainte-Angélique water treatment plant in forecast of the population growth. The town is also in the process of connecting 3 new wells and should be operational before the end of 2021. This should provide much needed relief to our current wells and increase capacity to also meet our anticipated future needs.
Q. WHY DOESN’T THE TOWN CONNECT THE AQUEDUCT NETWORK TO THE RIVER?
As you all know, Saint-Lazare is nowhere near a water source. Although Hudson is our neighbor, it’s many kilometers away. This would require huge investments as you need to run pipes from the water to the filtration plants, add pumping stations, require land expropriations, would be destroying roads and the need to rebuild them after, added connections to current pipes, add water filtration plant(s), etc. Remember that just to expend our water filtration plant in 2013, the cost was close to $11 million. Although never say never, this is not something that is being considered at this point. I also want to remind you that lakes and rivers are also at a record low this year. You can see in the list below, that several towns who draw water from rivers are also under watering bans.
Underground water doesn’t require as much processing since it’s already somewhat purified naturally, therefore is also less costly to treat than surface water like rivers, but is also highly dependent on mother nature for the recharge rate.
Q. WHY DO PRIVATE WELL OWNERS DO NOT HAVE WATERING RESTRICTIONS TOO SINCE THEY TAKE WATER FROM THE SAME AQUIFER?
Water in Quebec falls under the jurisdiction of the Civil Code of Québec, not the municipality. Although we’re examining any possible options, at this point, we can’t restrict the usage of private wells.
Q. WHY DOESN’T THE TOWN STOP ALLOWING RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS?
First, I want to refer you back to my post on development here: https://bit.ly/3BDx9sk. Most residential projects you’re currently seeing were approved years ago. As I also mentioned above, our water infrastructures were built with expected growth potential for “normal consumption” and under normal circumstances. Having said that, we need to make sure that future development is planned in a sustainable manner and if this becomes a new normal somehow (although the provincial government will step-in if we keep going over the consumption levels set for us), we need to find solutions.
Q. WHY DOESN’T THE TOWN JUST INSTALL WATER METERS?
According to the Saint-Lazare Rapport annuel sur la gestion de l’eau potable 2019, if we don’t lower our annual consumption by the 2021 report, Saint-Lazare will have to install water meters in all non-residential buildings (Industrial, Commercial and Institutional), targeted mixed-use buildings, municipal buildings and a sample of 60 residential buildings will be required progressively by September 1, 2025. Saint-Lazare didn’t meet the provincial required consumption objectives for 2019 and will most likely have increased further for the 2020 and 2021 reports. It’s safe to assume that water meters are on their way and will be a provincial obligation.
Q. DOESN’T CANADA HAVE ENDLESS SOURCE OF DRINKING WATER?
Actually, that’s a real misconception. Here are some facts I found from a research paper by Henry Gordon-Smith called “Water myths: The illusion of Canada’s endless water supply” which explains this clearly.
Canada’s water myth.
Of Canada’s 20 percent of global freshwater resources, only around 7 percent is considered renewable. 60% of Canada’s water flows northward—away from the Canadians that live along the Canada-U.S. border (98 per cent according to StatsCan), reducing its availability dramatically. And it’s in these southern population centers that available freshwater is declining.
Most of the fresh water is in the form of fossil water in glaciers, underground aquifers, and lakes. However, water must be of certain quality and in a particular place to be useful. Fresh water has low concentrations of dissolved solids and salts.
The fresh water that is stored in lakes; it is a non-renewable resource that can only be used once before needing refilling by an external source. Water stock in lakes is not a sustainable source of fresh water and is therefore not to be considered a true reflection of a state’s water capital.
As an example, the Great Lakes, holds 20% of the world’s freshwater stock. The stock in the great lakes is equal to 2 years of runoff from the entire world’s rivers: that would take 100 – 300 years to refill them.
Supply is fresh water, which is renewed annually as part of the hydrological cycle. This type of water comes from precipitation, snowfall, and aquifer discharges; it moves through rivers and underground sources and is renewable; but it is not unlimited, and must be used appropriately, otherwise, the balance in its function within the water system could be impaired. Water shortages often occur when supply is consumed unsustainably.
Canada is second only to the United States which consumes the largest amount of water per capita.
Unlike what many believe, we’re not alone! Here are a few other towns with current watering restrictions or who have asked to reduce consumption as of June 12, 2021:
• Interdiction d’arrosage Pointe des Cascades: http://www.pointe-des-cascades.com/single-post/avis-d-interdiction-d-arrosage
• Interdiction d’arrosage Rigaud: https://www.ville.rigaud.qc.ca/alertes/
• Interdiction Ville de Saint-Remi: https://www.facebook.com/villesaintremi/posts/1725862810930720
• Interdiction d’arrosage à Sainte-Martine: https://www.infosuroit.com/interdiction-arrosage-en-vigueur-a-sainte-martine/
• Interdiction d’arrosage Repentigny: https://repentigny.ca/actualites-publications/avis-de-restriction-dutilisation-de-leau-potable-et-interdiction-darrosage
• Interdiction d’arrosage à Châteauguay et Mercier: https://www.infosuroit.com/interdiction-arrosage-exterieur-en-vigueur-a-chateauguay
• Interdiction d’arrosage Blainville: https://blainville.ca/actualites/interdiction-temporaire-darrosage-des-pelouses-sur-tout-le-territoire-de-blainville
• Interdiction d’arrosage Shawinigan: https://www.shawinigan.ca/environnement/2021/06/10/avis-dinterdiction-darrosage/
• Interdiction d’arrosage Saint-Jérôme: https://avisj.ca/fr/alerte/1187/interdiction-d-arrosage-sur-le-territoire
• Interdiction d’arrosage Marieville: https://www.ville.marieville.qc.ca/fr/actualites/2021/avis-d-interdiction-complete-d-utilisation-de-l-eau-potable-a-l-exterieur
• Interdiction d’arrosage Saint-Lin: https://www.facebook.com/saintlinlaurentides/posts/2951716455148205
• Interdiction d’arrosage Ville de L’Assomption: https://www.facebook.com/VilledeLAssomption/posts/4347825545228299
• Interdiction d’arrosage Mirabel: https://www.facebook.com/VilleMirabel/posts/4161622960595220
• Interdiction d’arrosage Boisbriand: https://www.facebook.com/VilledeBoisbriand/posts/10161257602799762
• Interdiction d’arrosage Pointe Calumet: https://www.facebook.com/municipalitepointecalumet/posts/3965486936820146
• Interdiction d’arrosage Verchères https://www.facebook.com/MunicipalitedeVercheres/posts/1665067240351543
• Interdiction d’arrosage Ville de Chateau Richer https://www.facebook.com/villechateauricher/posts/1035191627012388
• Ville de Vaudreuil-Dorion https://www.neomedia.com/vaudreuil-soulanges/actualites/environnement/426880/les-niveaux-de-leau-sont-inquietants-dans-la-region
• Ville de Vaudreuil-Dorion. L’eau potable c’est non négociable Guy Pilon: https://www.neomedia.com/vaudreuil-soulanges/actualites/environnement/425647/leau-potable-cest-non-negociable-guy-pilon
• Valleyfield Appelle au respect du règlement d’arrosage: https://www.infosuroit.com/valleyfield-appelle-au-respect-du-reglement-arrosage/
• Un faible Niveau d’eau observé dans le Fleuve Saint-Laurent: https://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/environnement/2021-05-03/un-faible-niveau-d-eau-observe-dans-le-fleuve-saint-laurent.php
• Ville de Chelsea. Water reduction advisories in effect: https://www.chelsea.ca/en/news/drinking-water-reduction-advisories-effect-1
• Hudson. Water levels in Lake of Two Mountains is very low: https://hudson.quebec/en/notice-water-levels-in-lake-of-two-mountains-is-very-low/
• Ville de Mascouche https://www.facebook.com/villedemascouche/posts/3938121432890767