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Protecting drinking water sources is an incredibly crucial step in producing clean, safe drinking water.

This session will explore different approaches to source water protection and the challenges of increased urbanization, a changing climate and creating a cooperative approach across municipal, provincial and even international borders.

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Our Topics

Oliver Brandes, Polis
Towards Watershed Security – addressing source drinking water protection and watershed governance trends and opportunities from BC.

Nothing is more fundamental to Canada’s security and well-being than fresh water. Clean, abundant water and healthy, functioning watersheds are the fundamental basis of thriving and prosperous communities today and into the future. This vital resource, however, is under growing pressure. As uncertainty and instability mount, communities are bearing the costs and conflicts caused by increasing droughts, floods, fires, and watershed degradation.

This presentation will explore a recent drinking water source contamination conflict and crisis in the Hullcar aquifer and demonstrate how the response by government offers insight on how to advance a more systematic and wholistic approach to source drinking water protection across the province and offering lessons across Canada. A key consideration to a comprehensive approach is to fundamentally addresses issues of watershed governance and better integrate water into a modernized land use planning and resource management regime. Beyond the specific case study of the Hullcar aquifer this presentation will draw on recent substantive POLIS research reports – Towards Watershed Security: The Role of Water in Modernized Land Use Planning and Watershed Agenda for British Columbia – to draw out insights and practical direction to fulfil the promise of a more sustainable water future in Canada and beyond.

Steph Neufeld, EPCOR
EPCOR’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Edmonton Drinking Water and Collection System

Climate change will generate a number of challenges that will test the resiliency of EPCOR’s people, operations, and infrastructure. In the City of Edmonton, this challenge is centered around the North Saskatchewan River (NSR) and its watershed. The NSR is the sole source of water that EPCOR treats and distributes to over 1 million customers in the watershed, and it is also the receiving environment for the discharges from both the drainage system and our wastewater treatment plant. By the year 2050, climate change models for the NSR watershed predict that air temperatures will increase by 1.3 to 4.9 °C and average annual precipitation will increase by 5.9 to 43.8%. High intensity storms are predicted to become more frequent; there will be increased precipitation in winter and spring and decreased precipitation in the summer and fall; more precipitation will fall as rain as opposed to snow; and spring runoff will arrive sooner. These climatic changes will alter: the function and structure of the watershed, the flow and quality of water in the NSR, water demand, and storm water runoff patterns. EPCOR will be required to adapt to these changes and has therefore developed a North Saskatchewan River Climate Change and Adaptation Strategy. EPCOR’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy is based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document titled: “Adaptation Strategy Guide for Water Utilities” (EPA 2015). The EPA document was developed specifically to provide guidance and adaptation options to drinking water, wastewater and stormwater utilities to address climate change. In our presentation we will discuss specific adaptation strategies and strategic actions that fit under the broad categories of ecosystem and land use, modeling, monitoring, and water demand. Further we will discuss how how these strategic actions are nested within other planning frameworks such as total loadings management, source water protection, integrated resource plans, and other long-term plans.

Mary Wooding, Province of Ontario, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Tessa Di Iorio City of Ottawa
Ontario Source Protection Approach

One of our primary needs is clean, safe drinking water. The current COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us how important it is to safeguard our health. Twenty years ago, a public health tragedy that struck one of our Ontario communities underscored the significance of prevention as the first principle in the safeguarding of our drinking water for our communities, and we reflect on the vast improvements made since then.

In May 2000, a municipal well in Walkerton became contaminated with a deadly bacteria. Seven people died due to the contamination, and many residents were left with severe long-term illnesses. The Government of Ontario established a public inquiry into the drinking water tragedy, led by Justice Dennis O’Conner. He developed 121 recommendations that became the building blocks of today’s multi-barrier framework for drinking water protection in Ontario. Passing of the Clean Water Act legislation directly fulfills 12 of Justice O’Connor recommendations and supports 22 other recommendations in the report. Since the Walkerton water tragedy there is much we have learned and accomplished. We know that protecting our drinking water is a vital and shared ongoing responsibility – and it starts at the water source. Today, Ontario has a comprehensive science-based drinking water protection framework from source to tap that is looked to as an example by other jurisdictions

Marie Claude Besner, Ville de Montreal
Vulnerability assessment for source water protection in Montreal

Source water protection is a critical component of a multi-barrier approach to protect drinking water. As such, it has been integrated into regulatory approaches in several jurisdictions over the last years. In the province of Quebec (Canada), the Ministry of the Environment has issued its regulation for source water protection in 2014. Vulnerability assessments of groundwater and surface water intakes must be conducted by municipalities with reports to be submitted by April 2021.

The City of Montreal supplies drinking water to a population of 2 million through six drinking water treatment plants using surface water as their source.

The main elements required by the provincial regulation include for each site: (i) delimitation of intake protection zones (IPZ), (ii) calculation of six indicators based on water quality data, and (iii) assessment of the vulnerability of the intake based on the inventory of human activities, land use and potential events likely to affect the quality and quantity of the water used for the withdrawal. The approach put forward by the Ministry is to perform the inventory of activities within the IPZ, which are in fact defined as strips of land along the water body based on the type of waterbody (ex. 120 m wide by 15 km long). However, this approach is hardly applicable in highly urbanized areas where sewersheds are better fitted for inventories. The approach used by the City of Montreal will be presented.
  • Robert Haller - Welcome and Introductions
  • A word from our Sponsor - Carl Kuhnke, Walkerton Clean Water Centre
  • Towards Watershed Security – addressing source drinking water protection and watershed governance trends and opportunities from BC - Oliver Brandes, Polis Project
  • EPCOR’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Edmonton Drinking Water and Collection System: Steph Neufeld, EPCOR
  • Ontario Source Protection Approach: Mary Wooding, Province of Ontario, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Tessa Di Iorio Risk Management Official/Inspector, Hydrogeologist; City of Ottawa
  • Vulnerability assessment for source water protection in Montreal: Marie Claude Besner, Ville de Montreal
  • Panel Discussion
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    Sponsor: Carl Kuhnke
    Chief Executive Officer, Walkerton Clean Water Centre
    Carl Kuhnke is the CEO of the Walkerton Clean Water Centre, the Ontario Government Agency that trains drinking water operators and develops technology solutions for drinking water issues across the province, including Ontario’s 134 First Nations. After 20 years as a Canadian Ambassador in five different countries, and Ottawa, he left for the private sector and co-founded technology firms on the west coast. He returned to public service as the leader of Saskatchewan’s Centre of Excellence for Infrastructure, and returned to Ontario in 2017 to lead the Walkerton Clean Water Centre.
    He resides in Walkerton with his wife, Beth, who stems from Elora, and his Havanese and Toy Poodle rescue dogs Zoe and Pippin. He is an Order-in-Council appointee to the Brockton Police Services Board, a member of the Brockton Economic Development Committee, and a board member of the Residential Hospice Grey-Bruce
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    Steve Craik
    Moderator: EPCOR Water Services
    Steve is Director of Quality Assurance and Environment with EPCOR Water Canada in Edmonton. He has over 18 years of teaching and practical experience in the areas of municipal drinking water and wastewater treatment. He maintains an adjunct position at U of A where and continues to co-supervise graduate students with University researchers. Steve is the Chair of CWWA’s Drinking Water Quality Committee.
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    Oliver Brandes
    Polis Project
    Oliver M. Brandes is an economist and lawyer by training and a trans-disciplinarian by design. He serves as Co-Director of the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, based at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies (CFGS), where he leads the award-winning POLIS Water Sustainability Project. His work focuses on water sustainability, sound resource management, public policy development, and ecologically based legal and institutional reform.

    Oliver serves as the Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships and Public Policy at CFGS. He is an Adjunct Professor in the University of Victoria Faculty of Law and School of Public Administration, and is a fellow of the Environmental Law Centre. In 2012, he co-developed B.C.’s first water law course at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. He also has affiliations at the University of Manitoba and Brock University.

    Oliver is a technical advisor to the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, supporting the ongoing development of the provincial Water Sustainability Act. He also provides ongoing advisory support to the provincial government and Indigenous nations on issues of governance and water law for watershed governance pilots and planning projects underway in regions across the province, including the Koksilah, Cowichan, Skeena, Nicola, Hullcar, and Coquitlam watersheds. In 2017 Oliver was appointed to lead an independent expert review on source drinking water protection in B.C., which resulted in regulatory change and informed the Auditor General of British Columbia’s work on drinking water.

    Working in various settings, including scholarly, community, and expert practitioner forums, Oliver is a regular speaker and actively drives public dialogue and champions water sustainability and watershed security. This work includes chairing and planning the decade-long series of innovative biennial national Watersheds forums. He is also a founding member and Chair of the national Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW), and an advisor to numerous national, provincial, and local governments, water funders, and water organizations, including the First Nations Fisheries Council, Freshwater Legacy Initiative, and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources.
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    Steph Neufeld
    EPCOR Water Services
    Steph Neufeld has been a Watershed Manager with EPCOR Utilities Inc. since 2008 where her focus is on drinking water source water protection and managing the cumulative effects of EPCOR’s operations on the North Saskatchewan River. Steph completed her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Environmental Ecology at the University of Alberta and her M.Sc. degree investigated the effects of landuse change on water quality and aquatic insect communities in Alberta streams. After graduation, she worked in consulting as an Aquatic Biologist for several years before starting her career with EPCOR. Steph has taken on many board positions and has been a key leader in watershed management over the years. She held the position of President of the Alberta Lake Management Society for almost ten years and now sits on the Board, is on the Board of Directors of the Alberta Water Council, co-chaired the Alberta Water Council Non-Point Source Pollution and Riparian Project Teams, was a member of the Source Water Protection and Lake Conservation and Management Teams, and also sat on the Integrated Watershed Management Plan steering committee for the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance for three years, was on the Red Deer Watershed Alliance Board for two years, and was involved in the Bow River Phosphorus Management Planning Team for many years. Her past work highlights include spearheading the NSR WaterSHED monitoring program and providing leadership in Source Water Protection Planning in Alberta through presentations, reports, and development of Edmonton’s, Okotoks’, and Kananaskis’ Source Water Protection Plans.
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    Tessa Di Iorio
    Risk Management Official/Inspector, Hydrogeologist; City of Ottawa
    Tessa currently works with the City of Ottawa in the Asset Management Branch of Infrastructure Services in the Department of Planning, Infrastructure and Economic Development. Tessa is the City of Ottawa’s Risk Management Official, responsible for the implementation of Part IV policies under the Clean Water Act. Tessa is also a hydrogeologist and supports development review at the City, additionally she manages various groundwater-related projects to support informed resource management. Prior to working for the City of Ottawa, Tessa worked for a Conservation Authority for 11 years and managed technical studies to support source protection planning.
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    Mary Wooding
    Province of Ontario, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
    Mary currently works with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Conservation and Source Protection Branch. Mary represents the Crown as the Provincial Liaison Officer for several source protection committees in their implementation of the Clean Water Act. She supports and assists provincial government ministries with their responsibilities of implementing source protection policies under the Act that are directed to them. Mary’s other roles in her 25+ years with the Ministry include Drinking Water Inspector where she inspected many municipal drinking water plants in eastern Ontario.
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    Marie Claude Besner
    Ville de Montreal
    Dr. Marie-Claude Besner works as an engineer for the Service de l’eau at the City of Montreal since 2013. She specializes in research, development, and risk analysis. She holds a bachelor degree in civil engineering from McGill University and master’s and doctoral degrees from École Polytechnique de Montréal. For two years, she was an ORISE Post-Doctoral Fellow with USEPA, where she was involved in defining research needs to better assess public health risks associated with water quality degradation in distribution systems. She previously worked at École Polytechnique as a researcher and her work has been published in several journals including Water Research, Environmental Science and Technology and the AWWA Journal. In 2019, she received the George Warren Fuller Award for the Quebec section of AWWA.