Apparently, the answer to that question depends on who you are responsible for and accountable to.
As a member/resident/owner/volunteer of a small private water system which services our rural community of 15 connections for potable use for our residents, protection and conservation of the source that our community was given in 1979 is critical. Rural communities across Rocky View County (RVC) are “in the business” of providing water utilities for residents with “micro” systems. Water security is a basic human right and a common issue across RVC. Urban centers have economies of scale which greatly impact accessibility to drinking water, but many rural residential communities do not. Water security is varied across RVC and residents must pay attention to this common issue.
During the first 30 years of operation, the required research and knowledge of our water operations never extended beyond getting the water from our community well to the taps of residents. Our water source is what is known as High-quality ground water. The origin of the water comes from an underground aquifer which is a filtration system, much like a Riparian area for above ground waterways, which likewise filters and cleans the water the way only nature can. Since our Association’s operations does not have access to the information that indicates what is deep below the surface, we focus on conservation to address quantity concerns and testing to monitor quality. Based on the water source and years of quality testing data, results have continually affirmed that our High-quality ground water is low risk to residents, not no risk.
No system is without risk and Governments at all levels are aware that low risk does not mean NO risk. The Walkerton tragedy highlighted the need for risk assessment with laser focus. Overnight, our small, privately owned water system went from unregulated to a fully regulated water system. The process was daunting, learning the regulations with very little support and no additional resources. It became apparent that our assessment of risk, as the owner/operator, was not important where regulations for water safety were concerned. Point being, we are a low-risk water system that is highly regulated in the interest of water safety.
Our water system owners are not the only group that recognize the high value of aquifers. The gravel pit industry recognizes the monetary value of the aggregate above this aquifer. The industry sings from the same song sheet that the creation of a gravel pit or pits, in this area, will not have an impact on the water, RVC policy concurs.
As a small water system regulated by Alberta Environment and Parks, we are asking that the bar for assessing impacts to water safety remains high regardless of the owner/operators self-assessment of risk. A low-risk development plan must be highly regulated in the interest of water safety now, and for future generations.
Mother, RVC resident, water system owner, non-profit and public sector volunteer