Profiling Regional Watershed Management on the Northeast Avalon: Integrating Practices for Drinking Water Quality
This study investigated watershed management in the Northeast Avalon (NEA) region and six targeted municipalities by 1) mapping watershed boundaries and intactness to inform water and wetland management; and 2) understanding the issues around drinking water in each municipality. Residents, planners, developers and municipal staff were interviewed. Many of the watersheds have experienced significant development resulting in a loss of watershed health; few areas have large intact areas remaining. As larger watersheds are shared among municipalities, it is imperative that a planning platform be developed to engage and promote regional planning to ensure watershed health and sustainable drinking water into the future. Mechanisms that encourage as well as discourage regional collaboration around issues of watershed management are outlined. Below are the main recommendations found in this study: Regional watershed management is key method to deal with the increasing water demands associated with development on the Northeast Avalon. Regional watershed management would be highly relevant: when development in one municipality negatively affects the quality and quantity of drinking water in the neighboring municipality; when one municipality reaches its maximum water capacity and might need to look for alternative water sources from other municipalities; in cases when the costs of developing new water supply systems or improving existing ones are too high for a single municipality. Regional watershed management would require a strong municipal collaboration and a direct, more active involvement of the provincial government. For this large-scale management system to work properly, ownership and responsibility would need to be defined well in advance to avoid tensions and conflicts. Planning is a crucial element of land development. However, most municipal staff and developers are not environmentally schooled and may fail to preserve natural landscape within rural communities. While larger wetlands can be identified on the 1: 50 000 maps, small wetland cannot, resulting in a considerable underestimate of wetland cover. These smaller wetlands also need to be protected, but are not considered when development permit applications are submitted. The Province should not limit their assessment criteria solely on mapped wetlands. There is an urgent need for a regional assessment of wetland status in the Northeast Avalon, to determine rates of loss or degradation, and to identify key wetlands to be preserved for watershed integrity and drinking water security. Many of the areas have low watershed intactness values; therefore the remaining large tracts of land with high watershed intactness within each municipality should be zoned for conservation and watershed protection, in order to safeguard long-term drinking water sustainability Regional collaboration requires detailed planning that is part of a municipal long-term vision. However, many municipalities cannot afford to have a permanent planner. A way around this problem might be a regional planner who would work with the smaller communities to advance regional approach. We heard many instances in which, even though residents expressed their concerns about the impact of new developments on the drinking water supply, the municipal government dismissed their complaints and approved the new development. This further supports the belief among many residents that the municipal councils are strongly under the influence of developers. More effort and time needs to put into making sure that the voices and opinions of those affected by the decision-making process are heard and taken into account. Clear cuts are not necessary for installment of a storm water management system. A storm water management system can be installed within a vegetated lot, but costs of such installment maybe higher compared to a clear cut development. Septic tanks, although widely used in rural and peri-urban areas and commonly regarded as an efficient approach for onsite treatment of domestic wastewater, can be a potential source of water pollution. The fact that they are not monitored results in an underestimation of the negative aspects of these systems. We need to improve the design, installation, maintenance, and monitoring of septic tanks to minimize the risk to the water quality, especially in the environmentally sensitive areas. In addition, more efforts should be put towards implementing alternative ways for waste water management. Residents should test their well water more regularly. Non-governmental organizations (for example, Northeast Avalon Atlantic Coastal Action Program (NAACAP)) play an important role in encouraging and influencing regional collaboration. These groups can help create an inclusive style atmosphere where environment and conservation leaders, regional government representatives, residents and development practitioners can network and share ideas for strengthening water management policy. We suggest that NAACAP be approached to hold a public workshop where relevant water management best practices are presented and discussed with key management and development individuals in attendance. Information shared via the workshop would guide current and future sustainable development decisions.
30 Nov -0001
The Harris Centre RBC Drinking Water Research And Outreach Fund
Strategic Research Theme
Community and Regional Development