Urban Sprawl is Compromising Our Sources of Fresh Water: Do We Need a Rain Festival?

Metro St. John’s has three sources of fresh water. They are Windsor Lake, Bay Bulls Big Pond, and Petty Harbour Long Pond. You have already drank, cooked, or bathed using water from one of these three sources.

The Windsor Lake treatment facility has a rated capacity of 70,000 cubic meters of water per day in the summer and 53,000 in the winter. The difference in maximum output is due to viscosity changes as the water gets colder. It provides the East End of St. John’s and the Downtown with water.

The Bay Bulls Big Pond treatment facility has a rated capacity of 85,000 cubic meters of water per day. If you live in the West End of St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Paradise, Conception Bay South or, Portugal Cove- St. Philips, this is where your water comes from.

The Petty Harbour Long Pond treatment facility has a rated capacity of 14,500 cubic meters of water per day and supplements the West End of St. John’s.

An engineering report produced by CBCL Limited and project manager Greg Sheppard in 2015 stated that with the projected future growth of the Metro region, and with the requested addition of Holyrood and Torbay to the Metro water system, two new sources of fresh water would be required. Both Thomas Pond and Big Triangle Pond were recommended as the best options.

These are the five key sources of fresh water which we need to protect moving forward, 3 current and 2 future. We need to protect the bodies of water certainly, but also their drainage basins. With continued suburban sprawl and the 190 meter contour limit removed from development constraints, we will see a drastic increase in development pressure in the vicinity of these five bodies of water. Now is the time to enact and strengthen policy to protect them. The 190 meter contour represented a line of demarcation, defined by elevation. Above 190 meters in elevation was off limits to development, which protected places like Windsor Lake.

We are incredibly fortunate to live in a place of such abundance. Fresh water is the ultimate wealth. You can pretty well track the wealth of nations based on their access to clean abundant fresh water. If a currently rich country has no fresh water of its own, they are temporarily rich. If a currently poor country has lots of fresh water, they are temporarily poor.

I may be the only person in Metro St. John’s who actively enjoys the rain but I do. I love the way the rain audibly foreshortens the city. I love the way the air smells after a downpour, the way the colours of houses are enriched, the way the streets and sidewalks are cleaned and are given new life with the vibrant flickers of reflected light.

I think that our sources of fresh water need to have their profiles raised and I think rain needs a re-branding. So I hereby challenge our arts community to create a rain festival with those objectives at its core. I want to see sculptures which are animated by the rain and puddle jumping obstacle courses and no I don’t mean re-purposing potholes and dodging cars. Something fun are preferably non-life threatening.

Our good fortune deserves to be celebrated and it needs to be protected.

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  • I find it interesting the 2015 report said “find new water” rather than “use less water”.

    About 1/3 of Portugal Cove St. Phillip’s uses municipal water, the rest have their own wells. That being said, the Town just approved the installation of water meters on residences who use the municipal water – the first municipality IN THE PROVINCE to do so.

    The program is mostly federally funded, using funds that can likely be accessed by any municipality. The expectation is people will use their water more wisely when they know they will have to pay more when they use an excessive amount. This is what is done virtually everywhere else in the country.

    However, I am still not surprised at the report recommendation. After all, this is the province which sanctioned building Muskrat Falls before implementing time of day usage tariffs, which would have offset much of the peak power usage to use night time surplus.

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