I hear almost daily from people telling us to stop giving building permits or to stop development. Even if we wanted to do that, it is totally impossible at this point and for many reasons. I wanted to explain why so that people can better understand the challenges that all municipalities in Quebec face in terms of development and municipal governance.

In order to break the document down into different sections for easier reading, I will be posting as a series over the next few days or weeks (depending on my schedule). [This is the fifth part of the series]

Here are the points that will be covered:

  1. Population growth
  2. Housing shortage
  3. Labour shortage
  4. Our Obligations
  5. Our Resources and infrastructures
  6. The Law
  7. Dependence on property taxes
  8. Solution: better development

    [5] Our resources and infrastructures

    This is probably the most misunderstood issue by our residents and the most difficult to get people to accept.

    Many residents assume that the city is not keeping its infrastructure up to date or blame them for the watering bans in recent years due to the issuance of building permits. These misconceptions lead people to believe that development should stop.

    Approximately 90% of the population gets its drinking water from the city’s municipal network (there are 10% private wells). The water comes entirely from underground sources. During the summer months, outdoor use of drinking water increases by approximately 110% on a monthly basis, primarily due to lawn watering. Daily summer consumption has previously been as high as 250% of winter consumption!

    [1] Misconception: the city developed blindly without anticipating the drinking water needs of the growing population.

    Studies on groundwater

    In 2001, a study to establish a groundwater management and exploitation plan on its territory was mandated. In fact, since then, several other studies have been carried out to collect data and an annual monitoring of the water table has also been done since 2005. Considering a sustainable management of the resource, it is planned since about 2011 to add additional groundwater wells to supply the Sainte-Angélique aqueduct network to ensure the supply of drinking water to our ultimate population. The studies and work, which began several years ago, will connect 3 new wells in 2022. It should be noted that the city has been carrying out very rigorous monitoring for several years.

    In the fall of 2021, in order to assist in the decision making process and for better planning, the elected officials mandated another study to ensure that the drinking water resources were sufficient to support the expected population growth in the coming years, taking into account the effects of climate change. The demographic outlook from a statistical study conducted by the MRC indicates that the ultimate population of the Town of Saint-Lazare is estimated at approximately 26,000-27,000 people. 

    Based on the results of the recent study, the technical opinion is that, despite declining water levels in operational aquifers in some areas, the City’s drinking water supply is not at risk. The upcoming development of three new wells in the Pinière area will secure the water supply and provide some relief to the most stressed aquifers. Nevertheless, some uncertainty may remain as climate change represents a rapidly evolving process that is difficult to predict and quantify in terms of its impact on the renewable groundwater resource. For this reason, it is also recommended that sound management of drinking water resources be continued and that consumption be maintained within the standards set by the provincial government. Another study was mandated to validate this report and to make sure that we have solid data to rely on. We should have results sometime later this year.

    In fact, the Quebec government’s 2020 drinking water consumption targets called for an annual average of 184 litres/person/day, which was already achieved by Ontarians in 2017. Lazarois’ consumption in 2020 was 224 litres/person/day (this takes into account the total watering ban during the summer of that year). This means that the required reduction effort is 14,600 litres/person/year. This represents a difference of about 22%. There is still a lot of work to do.

    [2] Misconception: our water all comes from the same place.


    The city has a total of 17 wells that draw from different types of aquifers (unconfined, confined and bedrock). The water comes from 7 different aquifers. According to Technorem, the city pumps largely from different and separate aquifers that do not influence each other.

    Ste-Angélique network (12 wells)

    • Wells SA1, SA2, SA3, use the same unconfined aquifer#1
    • Wells SA4, SA5 use the same confined aquifer #3
    • Wells SA6, SA7, SA8, use the same confined aquifer #2
    • Well SA9 use unconfined aquifer #6
    • Wells SA10, SA11, SA12 (new wells) bedrock aquifer

    The 3 new wells that will be connected in the next few months, should bring relief to our current wells that are often over-exploited and will increase capacity to also meet our projected future needs. The new wells will allow some wells to be paused or slowed down to give them time to recharge.

    Saddlebrook network (4 wells) unconfined aquifer #4

    1. Woodbine
    2. Saddlebrook
    3. St-Robert
    4. Charlebois 

    St-Louis network (1 well)

    Confined aquifer #5 

    [3] Misconception: The city is unable to keep the infrastructure up to date. It must build a new filtration plant or upgrade it.

    Filtration plants and networks

    The City invested nearly $11 million in 2013 to expand the Ste. Angelique filtration plant (the City’s main network) in anticipation of planned population growth. It is anticipated that at our ultimate population (estimated 26,000-27,000), the Ste. Angelique system will be able to supply 20,482 people (Technorem 2018). In fact, the city has three water networks:

    1. Ste-Angélique (16,484 residents supplied in 2020)
    2. Saddlebrook (3,469 residents supplied in 2020)
    3. St-Louis (890 residents supplied in 2020)

    The water treatment plant capacity is equipped to treat water in sufficient quantities for the needs of the ultimate population according to our studies, as long as consumption is reasonable.

    [4] Misconception: this is a unique problem to Saint Lazare.

    Actually, the problem of drinking water resources is an issue that is raised all over the world, and in particular in Quebec, which is one of the provinces that consume the most water in Canada. This problem does not only affect groundwater resources, but lakes and rivers are also struggling with overexploitation and climate change.

    Most fresh water is in the form of fossil water in glaciers, underground aquifers and lakes that can take years to recharge. If we consume water faster than it can be replenished, as we do now in Quebec, our resources will not be sustainable in the long term. Supply water is renewed each year as part of the hydrological cycle. This water comes from precipitation, snowfall and aquifer discharges. Water must be used wisely or its function within the water system will be compromised.

    Faire le deuil du gazon (La Presse) https://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/chroniques/2022-05-20/faire-le-deuil-du-gazon.php
    Du gazon à la fois moins et plus vert (La Presse) https://www.lapresse.ca/maison/cour-et-jardin/2022-05-25/du-gazon-a-la-fois-moins-et-plus-vert.php 

    Conclusion : Based on our data and studies, the Town of Saint-Lazare should have enough water to meet the needs of its ultimate population, provided that reasonable amounts of water are used. Although the number of homes has increased over the years, we can see that outdoor water use in the summer, especially abusive lawn watering is the main reason we have summer watering bans, in addition to the effects of climate change.

    We can see with our data from the treatment plant where we observe in summer, peaks of consumption at night and when watering is not allowed. For Saint-Lazare, although the increase in summer consumption is taken into account in the calculations, the average summer water consumption standard set by the government is not respected. Outside the summer months, there is no problem with water supply, even with an increasing number of dwellings. We can see that the management of the summer peak periods creates a disproportionately high demand and puts a lot of pressure on our aquifers.

    Although we are more aware of the need to save water and have worked in recent years to reduce the amount of water we consume, it is still difficult to break some of our ingrained habits. Despite this, it is likely that stricter measures will be imposed on us by the government if we do not accept the consequences of our actions. As with many things in our lives that we have taken for granted in the past, we need to think about the impact of our actions with today’s realities to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. Water is not an infinite resource!


    Coming up in the next section: The Law