Guelph let’s talk about the “Frivolous Use” of water

In Canada we are truly blessed to have abundant water resources. And while we must never take for granted the sustainability of this resource, an abundance of water does allow Canadians to maintain a standard of living that (we can all acknowledge) includes many non-essential uses. Uses that other regions of our world can only dream of having, such as lawn and golf course irrigation, car washes and yes, swimming pools and splash pads. To be clear, I am not opposed to any of these uses provided the science can demonstrate the resource (in Guelph’s case groundwater) is not being depleted in order to provide them.

To this end, I believe a science based approach to rational and sustainable water use should always guide our policies (including price) and governance (e.g. Permit to Take Water Process – PTTW).  This approach was recently reinforced by the Provinces decision to review the PTTW Process in Ontario over the next two years.

It is in this context that (during the November 7th water meeting at City Hall), I decided to pose some questions to Wellington Water Watchers member Mike Nagy.  During his delegation Mr. Nagy took a moral position against the “frivolous use” of water by a company outside of Guelph.  And while I completely respect his personal opinions on water, I decided to explore the boundaries of this conviction.  My questions were intended to simply hear Mr. Nagy’s thoughts on the many non-essential uses of water that occur within Guelph.  Uses like swimming pools and splash pads, as well as industrial users (including breweries). I wanted to know whether he also considered these “frivolous” on a moral basis. After all, Guelph commercial breweries do consume water through their processes; bottle it; and ship it (as product) out of our region and around the world. And while I do not oppose any of these uses, I simply wanted to know if Mr. Nagy’s moral objection also applied to uses within Guelph.  I did so not to be patronizing, but simply to identify the inherent difficulties in developing water policy based on personal or moral positions. It is my experience in resource management that this type of approach often leads to interest groups simply “throwing rocks” at the users they don’t like (which we are seeing on this file).  And this type of targeting only results in division. This is why I continue to maintain that our collective focus must remain, first and foremost, on the science of sustainable water use; and I will continue to push this focus later on this month when the file comes before council for final deliberation and direction.