Punching holes for water in Chelsea, Quebec an unwise course

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by admin on February 23, 2011

By Marcel Gauvreau

The question of water has become a focal issue in Chelsea Quebec’s future, and I wish to candidly share my views.

I am in favour of a municipal water system in Chelsea, Quebec. I am not in favour of a system for densification, municipal revenues or little brown envelopes but rather for a simpler, crucial reason: we are presently unaware of the quality, quantity or condition of the water table and cannot continue punching holes into the ground at any rate. It is not a sustainable, or wise, policy.

True, the lack of knowledge can be partly remedied by an extremely expensive hydrological study of epic proportions, but its conclusions would only represent a snapshot of the water table at a certain point in time. The information would quickly become obsolete.

Provincial and federal governments are extremely worried about existing water tables and their usage; they are no longer sure of their replenishment rates, their quantity or their quality. We’ve run out of trees, we’ve run out of fish and we’re running out of oil; all these resources which a few years ago we assumed inexhaustible are becoming rarer by the decade. Water will not escape the ravages of over-usage.

The present theory is that Chelsea should develop its land according to its “carrying capacity,” in other words one-acre lots. Unfortunately, this premise is unsubstantiated.

There are approximately 700 acres of undeveloped land between the two Chelsea villages. Does that mean we should let 700 new wells into the water table? This may not be an ideal solution; is most likely not sustainable and forces us to look at this problem from a different perspective; with a broader view.

Forcibly, we must choose between investing in a global solution that can protect existing wells and the water table or preserving the status quo?

When I became part of council, I adhered to the guiding principles of sustainable development which demands that I consider the future of Chelsea while respecting its past and protecting its heritage. Part of that heritage are the natural resources which are an inherent part of our culture. To continue drilling wells at the present rate constitutes, in my humble opinion, a definite risk to our way, and quality, of life.

Municipal water does in no way constitute massive, uncontrolled, urban development. What it may allow though, is municipally-driven development which asks of its residents to identify their aspirations and, in turn, guides the municipality into taking the communities’ wishes, and more importantly, its needs into account – for example the environment, affordable housing, walk-ability, fire safety, seniors’ services, schools, community life, parks and so forth.

The overriding concern, though, remains that regardless of our vision for the future we cannot continue to abuse the environment. We must protect it. I for one do not see the logic in the status quo and 700 new wells.

I agree that we must control development, but we must protect our heritage as well. I believe that a municipal aqueduct will accomplish just that.

Marcel Gauvreau is the councillor for Ward 2 in Chelsea.