Groundwater: the Oakbank Water Main Project

Springfield needs to ensure that it is on a long-term trajectory toward ensuring proper/adequate/sufficient infrastructure is in place. Infrastructure helps drive economic development, and strong economic development keeps regions prosperous and attractive to new residents and capital. 

Water is a contentious issue in Oakbank, to be sure. Like many residents, I attended the public hearings in October 2017 regarding Phase 1 of water main installation on the west side of the town. At that hearing, the public spoke, but my worry is that a full picture was not presented.

Here is how I see things.

A 1990 report indicated that Oakbank's groundwater ranges from "good" to "fair". In Dugald, it is poor, and to their credit our Council and Administration have already been active in planning for Dugald's primary (and the Municipality's secondary) water sources. That report is, however, nearly 30 years old.

In my view, and unless we have information available through other sources which could be held as representative, updated information is needed in order to make a proper assessment about the health of Oakbank's (and other areas) groundwater. If a more up-to-date assessment reveals that Oakbank's groundwater quality is not adequate, or if there is genuine risk of contamination because of an excessive number of new wells being drilled (rendering their management somewhat more tricky), then there is a case to be made that water management and stewardship be managed through local government as a means of ensuring this necessary infrastructure is preserved and maintained. This can be costly but necessary. I continue to investigate this issue, particularly as it relates to Manitoba's Groundwater and Water Well and Related Amendments Act

All that said, I generally support the idea of 'town water' in Oakbank (i.e., municipally-supplied water services) for four reasons:

  1. Water is inarguably part of any locality's basic infrastructure, and having basic, stable infrastructure in place is vital for any government serious about targeted growth and sustainable economic development. A lack of basic infrastructure means a potential stifling of growth, which means the tax base shrinks while the costs of servicing that base climbs (inflation, etc.). As an example of the importance of water and economic development, look no further than what the City of Winnipeg is experiencing with respect to a lack of serviceable lands in its share of the lands occupied by CentrePort. This follows from similar issues on the RM of Rosser side of CentrePort.
  2. Potable water is, obviously, a health priority and necessity, which falls under the Drinking Water Safety Act.
  3. It is important we stay ahead of any potential problems with existing wells and acquifers that would give the Provincial government cause to take possible action under the Groundwater and Water Well and Related Amendments Act. Such an action, in an emergency or urgent situation, could come at a higher cost to Municipal residents.
  4. A tangible and reliable water supply is consistent with retaining property values because it is part of basic infrastructure (as per #1 above) and ensure buyers need not question a property's health, safety and access to something as critical as potable water.

The cost of "hooking up" is something that worries many folks, and justifiably so. Of course, and like many, I am not thrilled at the prospect of paying possibly tens of thousands of dollars to tap into a municipal water supply, but I support the long-term benefits (fiscal and operational surety, more properly) that this kind of project will very likely bring. 

In an ideal world, new town water service installation would be a cost-sharing exercise between four parties: the Municipality, the Province, the Federal Government and residents. So, while I support the idea of town water in the long run, I also want to be sure Springfield can minimise the direct cost to residents where and when possible.

Notwithstanding my views above, I also acknowledge fully that residents can have their say directly in such proposals, as was the case in October 2017. In these instances, and others, my role as Councillor would be to present options, analysis and arguments.

Last update: 13 August 2018 @ 08:36CDT