PROTECTING OUR WATER: AT THE SOURCE

From source to tap, Guelph's water supply is under threat.
Here's how we can protect it.

 
 
 

The Background

Guelph is one of the largest communities in Canada to draw its municipal water supply from deep underground. Most cities draw in surface water: Toronto takes from Lake Ontario; Brantford from the Grand River; and London draws from both Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

Surface and shallow groundwater sources are easily contaminated and require rigorous treatment and testing — chemicals, toxins, and pathogens are ubiquitous — but our groundwater is so clean it typically only requires disinfection.

Groundwater is a renewable resource in Guelph. Rainwater soaks into the ground, percolating through deep soils which filter contaminants, and collects at the surface of impermeable rocks ("aquitards") deep underground. Using wells, we pump this clean water to the surface to drink.

Guelph's local geology is unique. Under most of the city, rainwater collects in the first, shallow aquifer underground: the Guelph formation.  (It's the yellow-white limestone that most of our buildings are made from). However, our wells run deep, pumping from the lower Gasport formation, which is separated from the Guelph formation by an impenetrable aquitard layer.

The Paris-Galt Moraine, running approximately north-south through Guelph from Victoria and Clair to Maltby and Gordon, is where the Gasport aquifer recharges. Rainwater that falls on this area percolates deeper underground, then flows westward under Guelph.

The Clair-Maltby Secondary Plan, as currently envisioned, provides for three design alternatives. However, all three plans show residential and commercial construction on the sensitive moraine. 

Any construction will inevitably divert water from the recharge area and into surface streams and rivers, which will result in lower water levels throughout the aquifer. And with more people present, the risk of chemical spills increases — particularly, carcinogens like TCE and PCE that penetrate into aquifers and can't be filtered by soil.

We can't avoid building in this area entirely: we have no choice but to grow. Gordon Street South is going to see a lot of construction, building high-rise condos and commercial establishments. If we build this corridor right, it could be a walkable and transit-friendly neighbourhood with easy access to parks and natural areas.

But we don't need to build on the moraine at all: the low-density neighbourhood currently on the plan will only support a few hundred houses, at the very edge of town, where services will be minimal and expensive to provide. We can build that housing elsewhere and keep the moraine intact. 

What I'll Do

On Council, I will act to protect the recharge areas of our aquifer. I will vote to reject these plans and only support a plan that keeps the moraine undeveloped.

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The Paris-Galt Moraine: more useful as a moraine than as a suburb.