When I read letters to the editor that express concern about our water supply in light of the growth of our city, I understand the concern. There was one this week in the Guelph Tribune.
At the end of his letter, Mr. MacKinnon wrote:
“All I want to know is how will Guelph provide this essential service given the challenges that lie ahead? I still believe that every time we take a drink of water we should thank the man who dug the well.”
It was precisely this concern that allowed the City to successfully negotiate a lower population target under provincial Places to Grow legislation (175,000 versus more than 200,000) – that is to say our ability to provide water and to treat waste water.
Every five years, we update our Water Management Master Plan which includes plans for new wells along with conservation programs. It is actually being updated this year.
We should thank our staff – our modern-day well diggers – for their exceptional work ensuring we protect our water supply for our grandchildren! Today, the job is more than just digging wells. They also monitor the use of water from each well to ensure we do not diminish supply faster than the natural environment can replenish it.
Mr. MacKinnon also raised concerns about our ability to treat wastewater. Recent work has seen the optimization of our current treatment facility that will allow us to accommodate residential and business growth for many decades. This work is being recognized provincially.
Council also approves how many new residential units can come on stream in a given year. One of the key criteria is that we have sufficient water and waste water capacity. This is another check and balance in our system.
I do need to correct some misinformation in Mr. MacKinnon’s letter regarding the industrial tax base. In 2012, the City of Guelph was in the top ten of Ontario municipalities for industrial assessment at 5.2%. This was an increase over 2011. To put this in context, if we look at other comparator cities in the top 10, Cambridge was at 6.1% and Mississauga and Brampton were at 4.7%.
We continue to see significant business attraction and retention activity in Guelph which also contributes to our city having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the province. Just last week, I was at the ribbon cutting for the expansion of Hitachi Construction Truck Manufacturing Ltd. which is retaining approximately 400 highly skilled manufacturing jobs with the potential addition of approximately 500 new jobs by 2018 depending on sales. Coming up is the ribbon cutting for Wurth Canada which represents 100 plus jobs.
Often we forget that water is not just used by new residents. About 50% of our water supply is used by the business sector. Industry is highly motivated to conserve water and so we enjoy good partnerships with local businesses to help us achieve our water conservation goals. We have also seen great leadership from the development industry and local homebuilders through their participation in programs like the Blue Built Home.