Water: A Growing Conflict Here at Home

by salmond on October 2, 2017 - 9:57pm

Water is a necessity of life. There are many sources of drinking water and ways to acquire it, one of the most popular being pumping it out from under our feet. For many years groundwater has been essential to the survival of modern communities, providing large quantities of water on demand. Today is no different, right here at home in the city of Guelph, Ontario we relay heavily on groundwater. 

Before some of the conflicts/issues are addressed it may be useful to explain briefly what an aquifer is and how ours works in particular. Aquifers are underground water bearing permeable rock. The rock has specific physical properties that allow for fluid to pass through its pores. Water recharge of an aquifer is a complex and very regionally specific. But for the sake of short argument, recharge is a slow process like much of geology. Water recharged takes many years and lots of water being precipitated to have a net balanced effect. To get this water for our use, we pump it out of the ground using wells. If we start to use more than is being recharged by natural processes we begin to develop issues, environmentally, socially and economically. Issues of potential water shortages. 

In this article Nestle has a water taking permit issued by the government. This permit allows for the company to take 1.2 billion Liters of water annually. Although currently they are only exercising 58% of that right at 762 million Liters, there is a lot of controversy over what is being done. They want to up their permit to 3.6 million Liters a day for 10 years.

When resource management decisions are being made we start to see different interests, levels of knowledge and values leading to conflict. When members of the community have the issue of their water being "taken" from them this starts to play on interests and values. They are looking out for themselves and longevity of their community. The cognitive conflict then arises when all of the information is biased through media, members of the community do not have knowledge on the issue. To avoid conflict between government and its people Mayor Cam Guthrie said, "My hope is that after you read” the new staff reports, “you’ll feel more fully informed too, just as I am now. Waiting for these staff reports was the right thing to do. Please read them. Please."

Also uncertainty is evident in the predictions of the aquifer not being able to provide for Guelph in the future. Like any science, it is not 100%. These are calculated and thoughtful processes to interpret data at best. When dealing with assessments they are suggestions based off of particular findings. Especially when the issue at hand is in the subsurface and can not be physically quantified, it becomes difficult to be sure of future predictions. Models used hold things constant and are very mechanical, while reality brings a very complex variety of variables, most unaccounted for. 

Water is a precious resource and essential to survival and when something is of value it is almost certain that conflict will arise. 

 

Reference: 

Hallett. D. (2017) Nestlé plant could conflict with Guelph's future water needs, city hall report says. Guelph Mercury. Retrieved From: https://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/6935429-nestl-plant-could-confl...

About the author