Local Coalition Applauds Province’s Initiative to Better Protect Simcoe County’s Water
Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition, Bernard Pope of the Ontario Farmland Trust and Springwater Mayor Bill French. -SCGC photo
Discussion welcomed on Greenbelt expansion over areas of hydrological significance
Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition news release
Today, the province announced plans to protect threatened drinking water sources of 1.25 million people in the Greater Golden Horseshoe through Greenbelt expansion. This initiative proposes to also include many sensitive water resources within Simcoe County.
Over the next 90 days, consultations are being held across the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Considering the vast majority of Simcoe County residents and businesses rely on finite groundwater resources, the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition (SCGC) welcomes this proposed action as both pragmatic and necessary to ensure the most cost effective, high standard of water quality and quantity that Simcoe County citizens expect and rely on.
“We know that projections from the local conservation authorities within source water protection plans predict water shortages both in private wells and municipal wells across the County,” says Margaret Prophet, Executive Director of the SCGC. “This should no longer be a conversation about IF we should protect our water, but WHEN. Currently, we are shifting the cost of addressing this to future generations. Expanding the Greenbelt to protect our water is evidence-based decision making at its best .”
Professor William Shotyk, President of the Elmvale Foundation and Bocock Chair for Agriculture and the Environment at the University of Alberta, has been testing the artesian spring waters within parts of Simcoe County for more than 25 years. His research has shown that these waters contained less lead than ancient arctic ice. “These are arguably the cleanest natural waters on Earth. I have no doubt about their unique quality and inherent value and every effort should be made to protect them for future generations.”
Mayor Bill French of Springwater Township also sees the announcement as good for municipalities. “I support Greenbelt expansion as it will protect our natural green infrastructure that purifies our water, prevents flooding and directly supplies our drinking water. This green infrastructure reduces municipal cost impacts from severe weather events – especially flooding. I believe the Greenbelt is a key factor and a central piece of the puzzle to create a sustainable and resilient Simcoe County.”
Many see this not only about our water, but what kind of legacy we will leave for future generations. Becky BigCanoe, Water Walker and member of Chippewas of Georgina Island points to how decisions like this directly connect us with our children and their children, as it is they who will be most impacted in the years to come. “Until we know every nuance of how everything is interconnected, we have no right to just pave over and reconfigure the natural world. The little bit of land that is set aside in a Greenbelt performs a mighty service in keeping our natural world intact and really is the legacy that we are leaving for future generations.”
Those within the farming community concerned with farmland preservation and agriculture’s long term viability also welcome the announcement. Bernard Pope, Simcoe County farmer and Chair of Ontario Farmland Trust says, “The provincial government and staff have appeared to listen to the concerns of the many voices of the public about farmland preservation and the quantity and quality of our water. We encourage the government to take the bold and wise step to expand the Greenbelt. This should be seen as a major step to ensure farm and farmer’s viability as well as food security in the province.”
Areas that are interconnected with Simcoe’s water systems, including Dufferin County, have also been included in the proposal. Brian Bell, chair of Food and Water First, which is headquartered in Dufferin, knows first hand, through the Mega-Quarry battle, about the difficulty of protecting farmland and headwaters.
“Recognizing that Ontario loses 175 acres of prime farmland every day and that source water areas across the province are in jeopardy from various issues, we are delighted to potentially have the Greenbelt expand to include the former Mega-Quarry lands and important water features. We must continue to be vigilant and persistent to protect our water, green spaces and farmland for future generations. Today’s decisions are our legacy.”
Prophet hopes that people will take the opportunity given to voice their hopes and concerns for their water.
“People in Simcoe County love their water – from beaches to waterfronts, rivers to lakes. Now is the time for people to show their care and concern for water and demand the highest level of protection for it. Protecting our water should be something we can all agree on and demand, and is a truly invaluable legacy that we can leave for our children and grandchildren.”