Guelph’s award-winning Water Supply Master Plan approved by council

Guelph relies almost exclusively on groundwater with 25 drilled wells that are screened with overburden, shallow and deep bedrock aquifers. Photo credit: joi,

After winning two prestigious awards for its new Water Supply Master Plan, the Ontario City of Guelph has now approved the plan for implementation.

The plan is designed to identify projects and programs that will help to address a shortfall in water capacity that would occur by 2051. In 2021, Guelph’s average daily water demand was about 49,254 m³. That demand is estimated to climb to about 68,306 m³ by 2051.

“The city has not exhausted its water supply and is not looking for new wells in neighbouring municipalities or townships at this time,” states a city announcement about the Water Supply Master Plan, which began its update process in 2019. “Throughout the community engagement process, several alternatives for water supply were explored, and pursuing new water supply inside the city’s boundaries emerged as a priority.”

The city relies almost exclusively on groundwater with 25 drilled wells that are screened with overburden, shallow and deep bedrock aquifers.

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Three new locations within the city have undergone preliminary evaluation; however, modelling showed that new wells would reduce the capacity of existing wells.

Guelph’s plan already won an award from the Ontario Water Works Association in 2021 for Excellence in Water Efficiency for its Water Loss Management Strategy that was developed as part of the Water Supply Master Plan update. It was also honoured in the water resources category by Water Canada’s 2022 Water’s Next Award.

The city’s water plan is updated about every five years and helps to manage growth and development, as well as control impacts from water users, particularly larger ones.

The latest update has a focus on water conservation and efficiency and examines several scenarios and how various outcomes could impact cost. It also looks at the potential for developing new sources inside and outside of the city, as well as restoring offline municipal sources.

The plan also recommends that the city build on its existing Drinking Water Quality Management System by developing a risk management plan that includes mitigation and response strategies.

Guelph will continue to invest in hydraulic model maintenance and enhancement to support groundwater and build upon current environmental monitoring programs.

In the same session, Guelph city council also approved a new Wastewater Treatment and Biosolids Management Master Plan. It will see the city continuing to use and potentially expand on-site energy production to save energy costs and reduce its carbon footprint. Additionally, the plan will aim to improve filtration to increase capacity in the third stage of the wastewater treatment process and ensure regulated discharge limits into the Speed River are “safe and sustainable based on technical data collected both upstream and downstream of the treatment facility,” city documents state.

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