Reduced consumption solution for Chelsea, Quebec water supply problem

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by admin on March 2, 2011

The Editor,

It was heartening to read Marcel Gauvreau’s views on sustainable development in Valley Voices in the Low Down (Feb 23 edition). I share the Chelsea, Quebec councillor’s belief that development should minimize its impact on the environment.

He suggested that we have a water supply problem, although we don’t know that to be the case as no global study has been done, and he dismisses the need for a proper assessment since it would be too expensive. Instead, he prefers that we proceed directly to an expensive $6.7-million water system to solve a problem that we are not clear exists.

Coun. Gauvreau believes that more supply is the best way to solve it Those who have thought about sustainable development realized long ago that it’s a matter of water consumption, not supply. More supply just perpetuates the problem.

The municipality does have a consumption problem. For example, toilets in the municipal offices consume 13.5 litres of water per flush, to be expected given the age of the building although it’s not that old. Toilet efficiency has improved dramatically in the past decade. For $316 at a major plumbing supplier, the municipality could buy the first certified Ultra High Efficiency toilet. The Niagara Proficiency model uses only three litres per flush!

So, for $316 per unit, the municipality could reduce its toilet water consumption by 78 per cent. The largest proportion of water use in Chelsea businesses, the municipal offices and schools involves flushing, and upgrading their toilets would reduce water use by well more than half.

I am sure Coun. Gauvreau would agree that spending $316 per toilet to replace inefficient toilets in the buildings and homes the proposed water line would serve is far more cost- effective than spending $6.7 million for that water line and another $5.3 million for an unusually oversized water treatment facility.

He asserts that 700 wells will be punched into the aquifer for future development, yet two of the current proposed Chelsea projects are using either a communal well or surface water. Furthermore, future developments need much less water from the aquifer if developers incorporate rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling and install the most water-efficient fixtures and appliances available.

Coun. Gauvreau’s justifying the water line on the basis of an exaggerated number of wells appears to be based on poor understanding of the options to reduce consumption, and gives the appearance of fear-mongering.

For inspiration, he might look to the example of Dockside Green in Victoria, B.C., for a development that provides a high quality of living while dramatically reducing water consumption. He might also look to the Living Building Challenge Standard for guidance as to what can be achieved.

Andrew Henry

Chelsea, Quebec