GRCA revises plans to protect the Grand River

CAMBRIDGE – According to a recent media release from the Grand River Conservation Authority, there are three factors which are putting a lot of extra pressure on the entire watershed system.

They identify concentrated population growth, climate change and the extensive growth of agriculture over the past two decades, in particular. This has prompted the GRCA to revisit and revamp its plan to conserve the fresh water of the Grand River basin.

“The new plan will guide future actions to ensure the environment remains healthy and sustainable as the population grows,” says the GRCA release.

The plan is the joint brainchild of municipalities, First Nations, the GRCA, provincial and federal departments.

Studies expect that the present population of 985,000 living within the watershed is expected to rise to 1.53 million by 2051.

Current municipal drinking water comes from more than 100 municipal wells and four river intakes, including the one at Six Nations.

“That same river also receives the treated effluent from 30 sewage treatment plants,” says the GRCA. “More people means more demand on water, storm water management and sewage treatment.”

Even with today’s technology, there are still heavy metals, pharmaceutical drugs and other chemicals, which cannot be treated by sewage treatment plants and are released directly into the river or streams that feed the river every day.

The effects of Global Warming has warmed the air and the water while producing more rain storms and longer periods of drought, which are also factors that need to be planned for.

Fertilizers and farm chemicals, as well as waste from animals eventually make their way into the river, seriously impacting the water quality.

The new plan would ensure sustainable water supplies by becoming more diligent in planning for future water needs; maintaining GRCA’s reservoir network to deal with drought periods; promoting better efficiency in water usage; protecting aquifer recharge areas; and developing drought contingency plans.

Improving water quality would include plans to invest in more water treatment plants and more effective operation of plants; expansion of water quality programs for rural lands, and investment in urban storm water programs; as well as the removal or remodeling of old dams.

In order for the GRCA plans to take hold, much better monitoring of development will be necessary, and closer scrutiny paid to developer’s proposals before rubberstamping their plans.

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