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Precedent-setting rural water restrictions

UPDATE: – Council, in an eight to six vote – approved the bylaw with an amendment to make it specific only the most severe, Level 3 low water condition.

Precedent-setting rural water restrictions and reduced bulk water rates will be discussed at Shire Hall Thursday morning to combat severe drought conditions and to help preserve drinking water for urban and rural residents.

A move to include private, non-municipal water serviced areas in a proposed water restrictions bylaw appears to be precedent-setting in the province. Though the County’s solicitor is supportive of the new bylaw’s intent, he cautioned restricted rural private water use has not been tested in the courts.

The entire County would see restrictions in water use for outside purposes including lawn and garden watering, motor vehicle washing, filling or topping off swimming pools and other outdoor uses. As with the current bylaw, the municipality may, with notice, request use of water for outdoor purposes between certain time periods. Swimming pools will not be filled with municipal water. Receipts from water suppliers will be necessary if requested by the bylaw enforcement officer. Fines would be set at “not more than $1,000”.

The report indicates financial implications expected include an increase in complaints about non-essential water use. Additional bylaw enforcement efforts are also expected and if charges are laid, additional legal costs would be incurred.

Council is receiving reports from the Corporate Services and Finance Commission, and Quinte Conservation, at the special meeting.

The entire County was declared a Level 3 Low Water Condition Aug. 4 as streams and many wells are already dry or imminently at risk. Major watercourses and wetlands in the County are mostly dry. The Black River stream flow is below the ecologic threshold for survival of its associated flora and fauna.

The report notes the County and individual well water supply are interconnected between the local ground water and surface water. The supply is decreasing with no immediate replenishment forseen.

Though the County has experienced few problems in Level 1 low water conditions, the report notes changes to the existing water restriction bylaw with a newer urban serviced area bylaw would provide additional restrictions during Level 2 and 3 conditions.

If approved, effective Friday at 5 p.m. the bulk water rate will be reduced $1.06 per cubic meter toward to help ease financial strain on rural residents who are having difficulty meeting their need for drinking water during the drought.

The shortfall will be funded from the tax rate stabilization reserve. The bulk water rate cost of $4.13 per cubic meter will now be $3.07.

The report indicated many County water users who are on wells and cisterns regularly purchase bulk water but the drought conditions have extended this need to other rural residents. In addition, many farmers who may already be faced with crop loss are finding that their livestock are at risk.

Bulk water suppliers typically purchase water from the County (specifically the Picton water system) although they may also acquire water from other sources, particularly when their customers are in the northern part of the County.

It is expected that when the water situation is corrected, the rate will return to $4.13 per cubic meter.

That timing remains unknown. Historically, periods of dry weather and low water levels are relatively uncommon in Ontario – about every 10 to 15 years, however, the Quinte watershed has experienced at least three significant droughts in the last 10 years – 2007, 2012 and 2016.

The Picton Water Treatment Plant is capable of supplying water to both large haulers and the public and is currently operating at a maximum day flow of 40 per cent of rated plant capacity. This, the report noted, is 45 per cent above “typical” demand. The plan has one of four filters out of service until the fall due to repairs, leaving the plant currently capable of producing 75 per cent of its rated capacity.

The report states water demand is tracking toward its 2012 high of 50 per cent capacity which would be three quarters of its production ability at this time.

The Wellington Water Treatment Plant, whose bulk water connection is only accessible to large haulers and not the public, is operating at 38 per cent of rated plant capacity – 15 per cent above “typical” demand in recent past years. There are no concerns with current production capabilities.

Increased bulk water taking from Roblin Lake by farmers and other rural users is causing concern. Operators have reported the lake’s level is significantly lower than normal levels and is rapidly decreasing, putting Ameliasburgh at greater risk. Roblin Lake is spring fed and a source water protected area due to the County using it for the supply for Ameliasburgh. Additional risk of contamination has also been identified due to vehicles entering the lakes to fill tanks.

The Peats Point and Ameliasburgh municipal drinking water systems already have annual water use restrictions imposed due to operational needs.

The Carrying Place and Consecon water supply agreement with Quinte West and the Rossmore Fenwood water supply agreement with Belleville both prohibit bulk water sales except through agreement.

The County’s outdoor watering practices will promote 50 per cent conservation. The Johnson Street soccer fields and Wellington Ball diamonds will go to watering Mondays and Fridays, from every night, overnight. The Roblin Lake field is watered with lake water every night except Sunday and will also move to Mondays and Fridays.

Flowers at Shire Hall and downtown businesses areas will continued to be watered two mornings a week but the quantity will be reduced by half.

The fountain at Picton’s cenotaph uses recirculating water from the pool at its base. Staff will shut off the make-up water (evaporation) for conservation purposes. If the fountain runs dry, it will be turned off for the duration of the low water condition.

The special council meeting starts at 10 a.m. It will be live-streamed and recorded and is available on the County’s website.

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  1. Susan says:

    Well Dennis we finally have one Commissioner down and “out”. Hopefully as most know the County is way down the list for drawing any experienced talent, we can recruit a credible replacement with a good mop!

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    Listen, a lot of what happened took place years ago, while I sat in the audience on a number of occasions following this debate, my memory is not perfect on every detail – but it is pretty accurate on most of it. Sure delays were caused by both sides (citizens and council) – but the responsibility of the process and the applying for funds were in council’s control. What didn’t help was the firing of the consulting firm TSH and paying them out a huge sum to get rid of them – which caused even more delays. On one occasion to appease the residents, they even flew out to Okotoks Alberta for a one day visit to view some eco operation – which had no impact on anything. The bottom line for me is that council knew of the pressured time lines and did nothing to avoid the mounting increase in costs – and they could have, but didn’t want to make an unpopular decision. By the time it came to build the plant the cost had almost doubled. Something that is still costing the rate payers today. Now after all this, where does it leave us? – right back here to now! So what do we do? I made at least one suggestion in an earlier comment – maybe we should all try coming up with an idea to help everyone. Just thinking out loud.

  3. Emily says:

    So rather than owe 10 million we owe 30 million. Nice! Even with the appeal which are normal, senior government left us out in the cold. The council size is being appealed as well and that will cost bigtime. Council set the perfect storm for that.

  4. hockeynan says:

    Listen to John Thompson.I am sure that man knows what happened. He would not post if he was not sure

  5. John Thompson says:

    To answer the question, Council had a tender in hand to build a new sewage plant for at or about 20 million with 10 million assistance to come from senior government. This deal could not close because of an appeal.

    As a result, the next Council moved forward on this file with an RFP process as recommend by the appellants. The proponents were to propose the best technology and the best location. Unfortunately, the best deal at this time was about 10 million more and requests for more government grant were denied, leading to the current situation as the old plant was out of compliance.

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    If I recall correctly (correct me if I am wrong please) – council applied for the funding years before they finally got around to approving the sewage plant project. The funding was based on the original price provided to the province and the feds – but by the time it was finally approved, 5 or 6 years had passed and it was too late to ask for more funding. Council at first rightly tried to respond to the residents concerns, but they did dither(as one comment indicated), combine that with a number of strong citizens trying to get the best solution – well a whole lot of time was wasted and up went the cost. What is “insult to injury” in this case, is that the final solution is exactly what was originally proposed years before. Perhaps what needs to take place is for council to reconsider(if possible) the payment schedule for paying off this plant. The current water rates are obviously very high – why not try to find a way to pay it off in an easier fashion by extending the time on the debt repayment? Not an ideal solution, but maybe a kinder one??

  7. Emily says:

    And how does an appeal double the costs of the waster water plant and situate it way up on a hill for significant pumping costs? Council dithered and also should have fought tooth and nail for funding. The impacts will be felt for decades.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    John – thank you for your take on the cost over-run of the sewage plant – I guess we can agree to disagree on that one. However, I am very pleased to hear that the farmers are fighting back.

  9. John Thompson says:

    Dennis, the doubling of the cost of the sewage plant to our users was not caused by delays of the Council of the day. The delay and extra 10 million was solely caused by the citizen appeal. This seems to be the best kept secret in the County.

    As for the effort to stop local livestock farmers from obtaining essential water from Roblin Lake, I skip the detail but am pleased to say that is being vigorously opposed for good reasons.

  10. C. says:

    Does anyone know if the two recent voluminous rainfalls change the new water restrictions in any way? I was able to find the new restrictions on the County website yesterday, but can’t today. Not that I’m going to bust right out there and start watering my veggies again with the ground good and soaked, but I’d like to know whether limits still apply. I’d imagine we’d need a council meeting to lift the restrictions, but until then, having the restrictions may be silly given the weather change. Of course, it could go right back to being completely dry again… Thanks.

  11. Marnie says:

    It has to be even worse for seniors on fixed incomes. Heating costs, hydro, and water bills must take most of their pension income. A lot have only their OAS and the supplement.

  12. Gary says:

    If Council cannot find a plan to control out of control water costs in the urban areas, growth will stagnate or even decline. People will not walk away they will run away. Why is there not any pressure placed on higher levels of government to assist with this crisis? It is beyond me how a young couple with modest income can pay rent, water and electricity and still dress and feed their children.

  13. Marnie says:

    I agree with all that you just mentioned, Gary. Council appears to be desperate for money and is becoming very creative at finding ways to impose new fees. \many of us are finding it increasingly difficult to pay exorbitant hydro bills and other rising costs. We once had a great downtown core but now it sells mostly doodads and items likely to appeal only to summer visitors with vacation bucks to spend. I don’t really want a sidewalk at my front door but I will point out that my taxes do help to pay for sidewalks in Picton’s residential areas. I don’t use them. The late Laverne Bailey is being eulogized as a councillor with common sense who fought for the little guy. That’s what is missing today – a common sense approach.

  14. Gary says:

    Fair enough Marnie. But a rural sidewalk is a little over the top. The town does have it’s challenges particularly in terms of congestion, parking and affordable shopping. But the urban centre is still very much needed. We just need to find a way for everyone in this County to live comfortably and above the poverty line. The cost of services, housing, water (which is a crisis) electricity ( provincial government gone mad) is making ordinary life very difficult. All these escalating issues are far more important than splash pads, a bumpy Cty. Rd. 49, controlling yard sales or charging $500 special permit fees for a family picnic on your own property. When does some common sense return?

  15. Marnie says:

    Fair enough, Gary, but “everyone” is not paying for my well and septic system. When do I get a sidewalk in front of my house and some street lights to go with it and maybe a little park on the corner? One look at my tax bill and I think I am paying my fair share. As for the big advantages of the urban centre it is now for the tourists. You can’t park there even when you do want to shop. The traffic situation in Picton is ridiculous.

  16. Gary says:

    But you feel quite comfortable in the present situation with urban subsidizing rural bulk water. That equation is ok. You expect to reap all the benefits of an urban centre but not be responsible for the costs to sustain that. You may own a well but that water table you tapped into belongs to everyone and how that is used affects everyone.

  17. Marnie says:

    Gary, does that mean that taxpayers are going to reimburse us for wells and septic systems and maintain them if we pay to lower your water bills? Maybe the water table belongs to everyone but I have bills to show that my well and septic system belong to me. When a repair is needed council is not footing the cost for same. It is also up to me to pay to ensure that I have safe drinking water. No chlorine in my corner of the water table.

  18. Gary says:

    What you are really saying is that since the reserve fund was contributed to by all ratepayers then the urban ratepayers are subsidizing the rural bulk water users in this instance. This while urban see no reduction and pay some of the highest fees in the Country.

    And the view that private wells is theirs to use as they see fit is wrong. The water table belongs to everyone and is impacted by all water users be it urban or rural.

  19. Dennis Fox says:

    Marnie, thanks for reading my comment – remember that the dollar reduction for bulk water is being paid for from a “tax reserve fund”- meaning that part of that reserve fund was paid for by rural tax payers, plus the bulk water rate is just as inflated as the urban water rate – even with the reduction, the municipality is still making money. What both rural and urban water users need to come together on is the fact that the inflated cost of water in this community is 100% created by council’s ineptness – in the past and still now! Many of our current councillors and mayor were there delaying a decision which created the doubling of cost for the $31 million dollar sewage plant. They know how to protect their jobs, but don’t have a clue about protecting their residents from inflated water prices. No, I have lost all patience with our local government.

  20. Marnie says:

    I think you are onto something Dennis. This is step one towards trying to force rural well owners to pay a water bill. No rural resident needs to be told to conserve water in a drought. I wonder when we get our cheques to reimburse us for what it cost us to have our wells drilled and our septic systems installed? And of course they will want to reimburse us for the cost of having our septic tanks pumped.

  21. Dennis Fox says:

    While I support efforts to conserve water, after several days of writing to the Mayor and my two Councillors, I’m still unclear as to why rural private wells have been included in this by-law. Has anyone ever seen a rural home owner filling their pool from a well or watering their flowers during a two month drought? The answer is obvious to all of us – why not to council? I can understand asking people to use water in a thoughtful way or to alternate watering days, but only if it is necessary, but to impose a by-law onto private well owners is wrong – and our council is aware of it. One of my last and unanswered question that I posed to our mayor and councillors was – by including well owners into this by-law, is this the beginning of including rural residents in a water cost sharing for urban water rates? Which by the way was floated by residents last May at a Town Hall meeting in Demorestville. Since I asked this question, I hear only silence. Keep your eye on the ball on this issue – the game is afoot!

  22. Marnie says:

    Really, Janet? You want to snitch on a neighbour for watering some plants? Maybe you could call Crime Stoppers and get a reward for doing your civic duty.

  23. ADJ says:

    I must be missing something about this conversation. First I’m pretty sure Picton water is drawn from Picton Bay. It’s then filtered, chlorined etc. and sent up the pipes to your house. There it passes through your water meter and you pay dearly for every litre! Now,,this is where it gets confusing for me…If I wanted to “waste” my supply on a flower bed or grass watering I would be paying even more for the service. Basically I pay for it and am charged accordingly. Right or not? I wouldn’t and do not condone it BUT is it that the system is overloaded with demand? I wouldn’t squeal or report my neighbours either for using water in excess. What he wants to use and pay dearly for should be his own business.
    The water plant reports that use is up 45% and is that an unusual number? Are we taking into account new housing and hookups?
    And since your waste product water goes back to the sewage plant it’s then cleaned up again and sent back into the Bay. So the supply is re-supplied.
    The clincher in all this is you still pay a flat rate for water supply and to take a crap.

  24. Dennis Fox says:

    To answer Janet’s question about who to contact if one neighbour sees another watering their tulips? Call the Shire Hall Snitch Line – with direct access to Adolf!

  25. Janet says:

    Who should I contact if I see people abusing water?

  26. Chuck says:

    Who were the 2 that missed the vote? May not have passed given the close outcome. Imagine, 16 at that horseshoe!

  27. S.Edwards says:

    I agree with Theresa ! I’ve been saving water from my kitchen,shower and washer for weeks. It’s time everyone got on board .Yes my lawn is burned and am only keeping a few pots of flowers barely viable using my recycled water !

  28. wilson says:

    The County waits until we are at a Level 3 water condition before they set restrictions!! The Picton Water Treatment plant is operating at 45% above typical demand and the hanging baskets on main street and soccer fields will continue to be watered??? I do have a serious questions, who is monitoring these restrictions? County workers dont work past 5pm.

  29. Gary says:

    Pretty much a split vote at 8-6 with 2 missing. Not much consensus on this. More money spent and no relief for the urbanites carrying the load for Municipal water supply. Come and get it, it’s cheaper!

  30. Victoria says:

    Seriously “Flowers at Shire Hall and downtown businesses areas will continued to be watered two mornings a week but the quantity will be reduced by half.” They’re just flowers for crying out loud. Farmers are losing their crops and livestock are at risk and the Municipality is worried about their FLOWERS? Also, what is this about watering the soccer fields? Give me a break!

  31. Hildagard says:

    Interesting to see so many luscious green lawns on the Rednersville Road!! Few dry looking lawns in that area of the County!

  32. Gary says:

    How do tourists get the message of conservation? Let’s face it, they are presently the largest population in the County.

  33. mikebr99 says:

    The County house league soccer season ends this Sunday. The rep season continues… watering the fields at Johnson St. helps to mitigate injury risk for our kids… though that doesn’t seem to be a risk worth mitigating for U16 and adult leagues at the high school fields…

  34. Marnie says:

    Maybe of they stopped washing the fire trucks so often?

  35. Samantha says:

    Why are we still watering soccer fields?

  36. Snowman says:

    Shire Hall trying to “legislate ” common sense to rural well users? ha-ha.They can’t even enforce the bylaws they have. Maybe hire more staff to check my gpm useage?

  37. Theresa Durning says:

    Pretty or not, I don’t think the Municipality should continue to water the plants outside of Shire Hall. If every drop of water counts and the rest of the municipality is being asked to be cautious and prudent, the example needs to be set by staff and decision makers at the Hall.

  38. Heather Sharpe says:

    Seriously? Don’t worry about the flowers!!
    Give me a break, everyone is suffering and you talk about flowers!!
    We, ourselves have had a number of water deliveries, thank goodness
    that George lets us charge, or else we would be in trouble!!

    Flowers, please!!!!!

  39. J Porter says:

    Just wondering if this restriction goes for the County and City workers . Water lawns at municipal property , watering of plants in towns and in the City of Belleville by County and City workers . The water stations . What stops a person from going with a potable tank and filling up to top up pools or for other uses .
    Water in fountains owned by the County or City .
    I’m all for conservation of the water but the restrictions need to be spread across the board just not the residents.

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