Province’s plan to expand Greenbelt protection to vulnerable water systems applauded but bigger area needed

For immediate release: December 7, 2017

Province’s plan to expand Greenbelt protection to vulnerable water systems applauded but bigger area needed

Toronto, ON – In response to today’s provincial announcement, over 120 groups are calling on the government to establish a 1.5 million acre “bluebelt” in the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) region to permanently protect water sources. The government’s map is missing key areas that are urgently needed for the over 1.25 million residents, farms and businesses who access drinking water directly from the region’s groundwater and rivers. These areas also flow to the Great Lakes where millions more get their drinking water.

“Four million more people will call this region home in the next 25 years, so now is the time to secure future water supplies,” said Tim Gray of Environmental Defence. “Features like moraines, wetlands and headwaters that filter and store water must be off limits to development. We need expansive protective measures to safeguard our water supplies for generations to come.”

With a changing climate, the pressure on our water reserves, farmland and green spaces is even more intense. “Water connects us all,” said Margaret Prophet of the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition. “It is more important than regional politics and geography. There are Simcoe residents who already are experiencing dried-up wells, water restrictions, water bans, and substandard water quality and boil water advisories. We need action now.”

One of the threats to water systems is urbanization. The new provincial Growth Plan directs more growth to existing urban areas, but only the Greenbelt Plan provides permanent protection to secure water supplies long term.”Expanding the Greenbelt to protect hydrologically significant lands located outside of urban boundaries will not affect housing supply,” said Jennifer Keesmaat, former Chief Planner and Executive Director for City of Toronto. “If these lands are protected from development under an expanded Greenbelt Plan, there are no changes required to how landowners currently use the land.”

The good news: the province’s consultation document identifies seven areas in the study including water systems flowing off the Niagara Escarpment into Simcoe and Dufferin County, the Oro Moraine, Orangeville Moraine, and the Paris Galt Moraine.

What’s needed: the map encompasses sensitive watersheds in Simcoe County but omits areas in Wellington County and Brant County, and key watersheds in the east, such as the Iroquois Plain along the south shore of Lake Ontario and the headwaters of Carruthers Creek, and in the west, such as the Grand River watershed and the headwaters of the Grand River in Brant County.

“We need the province to expand the Greenbelt’s protection to sensitive areas like the Iroquois Plain, Brant County, Wellington County and the headwaters of Carruthers Creek,” Gray continued. “That’s why we are urging Ontarians to participate in the three month consultation and to tell the government to create a 1.5 million acre bluebelt before it’s too late.”

The #ProtectOurWater initiative is a collaboration between organizations and associations representing more than 120 groups, and 300,000 members across Ontario.

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For more information, please see this backgrounder.

To arrange an interview, please contact: Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence, skohls@environmentaldefence.ca, 416-323-9521 ext. 232 (work), 416-885-7847 (cell)