PROTECTING OUR WATER SOURCES TOGETHER
Residents are constantly questioning and making several assumptions regarding the water situation in Saint-Lazare. I would like to provide information to bring in facts and hopefully to also reassure residents. It brings me to a certain level of insanity when I hear some people talk about water when clearly, they’re not all fully informed on real facts. I understand the worries and believe that I’m just as concerned about water as you are. That’s why water has been a priority for us since elected.
OUR WATER COMES FROM THE GROUND
We have 3 aqueduct networks comprising of 17 wells which draw from 7 different aquifers. According to our research from Technorem, the city pumps from several distinct and separate granular aquifers that do not necessarily influence each other. This means that the 7 aquifers are not all inter-related. Ground water requires less treatment than lakes or rivers to make the water potable because it’s naturally filtrated and is therefore less expensive to produce.
Our water usage meter (see top picture) which is updated weekly, was introduced this year as part of our strategy on potable water conservation to show residents when usage is normal, acceptable, high or excessive (daily average over the previous week period). This initiative is not because we’re currently running out of water, but rather it shows when water usage is higher than the numbers the government and science tell us we should be using to meet our needs comfortably. Having said that, if we stay in the “excessive” water consumption level for too long, then it could start affecting our reserves and/or our aquifer levels (this is what happened in 2020 and 2021). So, we need to put in these kind of preventive measures in order to protect our water resources and to avoid watering bans.
Taking too much water too fast from aquifers doesn’t allow for proper recharge which is when it becomes a problem. Aquifers are not automatically recharged as it rains, it can take days, weeks, months or even years depending on the type of soil and type of aquifer. The amount of snow is also a major factor for the recharge rates. We also know that with climate change, as it becomes more unpredictable, we’ll need to be even more conscientious of our water usage.
SUMMERTIME WATER CONSUMPTION
It’s normal in the summer we use more water because we spend more time outdoors and rest assured that it’s considered when we do our calculations (it’s called peak coefficient). But when we indicate “excessive” usage, it means that we’re using over and above the numbers for normal consumption considering the peak coefficient. Summertime is when we have consumption issues with outdoor water usage as the only difference from the cooler months. The weather conditions will also obviously play a big factor in water levels and usage in the summer (droughts, heat waves, rain and cool temperatures).
No, even if you’re watering your grass, it doesn’t all go back into the aquifer. There’s a lot of evaporation and runoffs in addition to the length of time to reach the aquifer that needs to be considered. There’s always a big deficit in the amount of water returning to the aquifer when watering grass. People watering grass using automatic watering systems usually are the biggest culprits for high water consumption. We can see this in our data when there are peaks of water distribution in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping.
IT’S NOT ABOUT HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS
When we consider around the same number of homes throughout the year, we can see that we don’t go in “excessive” water consumption during the cooler months. We actually stay in the “normal” range levels. It has nothing to do with new housing development, it’s about excessive water consumption in the summer months. We have comparable data throughout the year and this is simply just a myth. The three new wells to be connected were also planned to allow us to provide water to our growing population and is accounted for in our projections for the future. This is without a doubt the biggest misconception people have in Saint-Lazare.
Of course more homes means more water needed, but I have to repeat this because it’s so important you understand ; our research and data shows that we have sufficient water to meet our needs, including future residential growth as long as we’re using water responsibly and in the required normal range to live comfortably. It’s not because we’ve been using water carelessly without limits in the past that it means we should continue to maintain this kind of behavior. There are a lot of different things we’ve done over the years that doesn’t make sense anymore in today’s world.
For those who think we should stop all development in Saint-Lazare, I’m working on a series of blog posts about this. You can start reading about it here… https://genevievelachance.com/stop-building
IT’S NOT JUST A SAINT-LAZARE ISSUE
Over-consumption of water is a huge provincial issue because there’s a misconception that we have infinite amounts of water which is totally false. Several municipalities across Quebec face the same challenges as we do and are working on pushing for more responsible water usage and reducing over-consumption. By the way, the province of Quebec uses way more water per person than Ontario for some odd reason. Why do you think that is?
WHAT OUR STUDIES SAY
Our many studies done throughout the years show that we have enough water for the population growth planned for Saint-Lazare in the years to come as long as we’re using water at a reasonable rate. Our 3 water treatment plants are also capable of treating adequately the number of residents to come. Our 3 news wells which will be connected this summer will also help provide relief for the wells that were overused in the last few years. We actually mandated a study last year to validate all this information and to confirm our capacity to provide water to our residents for the next 30 years.
LET’S BE MORE MINDFUL
Did you know that more than 50% of Saint-Lazare residents don’t know where our water comes from according to our data coming from our blue patrol! We all have to be more aware and more mindful of our water usage. That’s why Saint-Lazare is putting in all these measures to make sure that we have potable water for our future generations.
This water consumption meter is a heads-up to reduce consumption, so that we don’t have bigger issues later. Each one of us need to play our part in the solution!
*By the way, Sundays is the day with the highest consumption rate during the summer.
WHAT WE DID TO ENSURE LONG TERM SUSTAINABILITY OF OUR WATER RESOURCES
- We built 3 new wells in la Pinière to add capacity and to relieve over-exploited wells (to be connected this summer)
- We mandated 2 studies to ensure that we had sufficient water for the projected future growth of Saint-Lazare (results should be published in August)
- We created a blue patrol to bring awareness and inform residents of better water usage
- We changed bylaws to prohibit the destruction and landfill of wetlands across the entire Saint-Lazare territory
- We changed bylaws to protect ecosystems and the CMM forest corridors which are mostly where our underground water recharge zones are located
- We changed bylaws to prohibit building private wells if you have access to the municipal aqueduct
- We changed bylaws to prohibit filling of new pools with municipal aqueduct
- We changed bylaws to prohibit the use of municipal aqueduct for carwash fundraisers
- We changed bylaws to reduce the permitted hours to water grass
- We changed bylaws to reduce the period where watering new grass is allowed (most likely this will change again next year to only allow new grass in the fall when grass requires less water)
- We now prohibit watering grass when it’s raining
- We launched an awareness campaign and mailed an informative guide with tools for better water usage to every household
- We installed water usage meters at every entrance of the town
- We publish weekly data on water usage to keep people informed
- We increased the hours for the community patrol to promote more responsible water usage
- We increased financial subsidies. As examples, the city will give up to $100 per address for water barrels, $150 per year for the purchase of trees (see conditions), and $50 per toilet (max 2 toilets) for low-flow toilets
- The Ste-Angelique water filtration plant was expended (2013)
- By 2025 according to the provincial government stratégie Québecoise d’économie d’eau potable, if we went over the objectives set for water consumption in 2021 (184 L/person/day), we will require water meters for all industrial, commercial, and municipal building in addition to 60 households (to come)
I have two other blog posts relating to water you may be interested in reading…