In partnership with communities in the Strait of Belle Isle, the project seeks to conduct community-based participatory research involving case studies in and outside Newfoundland, drawing from multi-barrier and new regionalist themes, to explore opportunities and capacities for regional approaches to the delivery of water services among communities as potential solutions to drinking water management issues in the Strait of Belle Isle. The area has experienced multiple drinking water challenges, including long-term boil water advisories (with several in place for 15-20 years), high levels of disinfectant by-products, failing infrastructure, and giardia outbreaks. Generally, drinking water management has been troubled over the years in rural Canada due to the high cost involved in building and operating treatment plants, difficulties maintaining distribution infrastructure, inadequate source water protection, and limited human and financial capacities, among factors (Kot, Castleden, & Gagnon, 2011; Minnes & Vodden, 2014). These problems are likely to continue to disrupt the sustainable delivery of potable drinking water to rural community residents into the future.
As these problems are typically faced within the context of the currently dominant single-community management system approach to drinking water systems in Canada the need for regional-scale action has been raised, leading to the question of if (and how) a regional approach could be applied to more effectively and sustainably manage drinking water in rural Canada (Breen et al. 2015). This research will explore opportunities for regional approaches to water management where rural communities with shared needs and/or geographical proximity collaborate (e.g. through shared infrastructure, capacity building, strategic collaboration, etc.) in addressing their water management issues. To achieve this goal, the project shall fulfill the following specific objectives:
¬ Identify current water management challenges in the Strait of Belle Isle
¬ Identify which aspects of drinking water systems can be delivered regionally
¬ Drawing from case study examples, identify potential solutions that appear suitable and feasible given technical, geographic, socio-economic and legal/political conditions (will include an evaluation of an appropriate regional scale for such solutions, based on factors such as unique needs and geographical proximity)
¬ Identify actors and processes required to pursue further analysis and implementation of these regional drinking water initiatives
Although there has been considerable research into water management systems and water governance, there is little contemporary literature on regional approaches to drinking water systems or the feasibility of regional approaches in rural settings (Breen and Minnes, 2015). Social services such as fire service and snow clearing are delivered on a regional scale in the Northern Peninsula but there is a need for research to ascertain the viability of regionalizing the management of water supply systems to ensure safe and reliable water delivery in the region. This will be determined drawing from examples from other locales and their experiences together with an analysis of the specific Strait of Belle Isle context.
The research team will conduct interviews with water operators and mayors in selected municipalities in the study area regarding their water management challenges as well as options for service-sharing as potential solutions. Provincial representatives and other persons with special expertise in the sector will also be interviewed for recommended regional solutions to water management. Case studies will also be reviewed from secondary sources in and outside Newfoundland and Labrador. Research results will be shared with Strait of Belle Isle communities (particularly Flowers Cove and Anchor Point as project partners), members of Municipalities NL and provincial government agencies through community meetings, workshops, and conferences as outlined in the KMP.