Water Conservation in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario, and the Proposed Pipeline
Gold, Kathryn Michelle
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The Region of Waterloo relies on groundwater for 80% of the water supplied to its growing population. Ontario’s Places to Grow Act (2005) designates the Region as a growth corridor, and over the next 20 years, significant development is expected. A water pipeline from Lake Erie to the Region of Waterloo is being considered as part of the Region’s strategy to ensure sufficient amounts of water for the population. The purpose of this research is to examine whether this pipeline would undermine current conservation efforts by the Region. Using a combination of questionnaires, expert interviews, and newspaper analysis, the following research questions are investigated: (1) How do Waterloo residents perceive the region’s current water supply? (2) How do their actions related to water use reflect these perceptions about water supply arrangements? (3) How might perceptions change when a pipeline is constructed to Lake Erie? (4) To what extent might this pipeline encourage consumptive rather than conservation behaviour? These questions are connected with the social demographics of age, gender, income and education, to determine which, if any, plays the largest role in determining conservation behaviour. Ten significant relationships are found regarding water supply issues, with the majority relating to age. Older respondents are more likely to believe there is an inadequate water supply in the region, and that money should be spent to increase the available supply. Older respondents are more likely to state they conserve water year round. Older respondents and male respondents are more likely to have heard about a proposed pipeline. Younger respondents are more likely to prefer reducing the demand for water, while older respondents are more likely to prefer a combination of increasing the supply and decreasing the demand. Higher educated and higher income respondents are more likely to believe access to water should be limited. Higher educated respondents are more likely to prefer decreasing the demand instead of increasing the supply. For the most part, Waterloo residents perceive the current water supply as inadequate. Some residents conserve water as a response to this, but others do not limit their use in order to compel the Region to increase supply. It is unclear how perceptions might change if a pipeline were constructed. However, it is probable that consumption would be influenced by the persistence of the Region in continuing conservation programs. It is recommended that the Region consider limiting future growth, increase the cost of water to users, and deliver variable qualities of water to residents for different functions. It is important that the Region continue implementing water conservation measures at least at the current level. It would be valuable to study other communities which have built a water pipeline to determine effects that might not be anticipated. Finally, it is important that other municipalities affected by this pipeline be consulted before its construction.