Sandy Casselman
Villager Staff

EMBRUN – Politicians in the township of Russell recently voted against a bylaw amendment that would restrict resident use of exterior water in summer months.

At the June 21 council meeting, executive director of infrastructure services Jonathan Bourgon suggested the exterior water restriction be put into effect from June 1 to August 31 each year. Had it been approved, the bylaw amendment would have outlined when, and for what purposes, residents could use their exterior water during this period. Russell’s politicians unanimously voted in favour of deferring the issue, effectively putting an end to any talk of a bylaw change. Instead, staff was directed to work with the Environmental Advisory Committee on creating a township-wide education campaign around water conservation.

“Why, if we’re paying for water, do we have to have restrictions when we get the water from Ottawa and they don’t have restrictions,” Coun. Jamie Laurin said.

Both Laurin and Coun. Mike Tarnowski expressed concern for the scope of the restrictions, as well as the power allotted to staff to enforce those restrictions. While they both said they understood the idea of water conservation, they each took issue with the idea of putting restrictions on a resident-purchased commodity.

“I could totally understand before when we were on ground source water,” Laurin said. “We’re billing them for fixed costs and usage. I understand preservation, but at the end of the day, you’re paying for a service. Why am I being restricted? Is there an issue with our infrastructure where we need time to replenish?”

In response to several questions coming from both Laurin and Tarnowski, Bourgon confirmed there is no shortage of water at this point. He said staff is looking at extending the reservoir for potential future emergencies. He also noted that with the bylaw in place, it would be easier for staff to implement water restrictions in the event of an actual drought situation.

“It is an educational factor. Water is not an endless commodity,” Coun. Cindy Saucier said. “This isn’t just a thing that’s recommended for people on wells, this is something that is recommended for all people who use water.”

Tarnowski said he agrees with using water responsibly but drew the line at regular usage restrictions, when there is no clear or current need to do so, for residents who are paying for that service. Laurin agreed, noting that most residents are paying for and using the same water source as the City of Ottawa, and the city’s residents are not being restricted. Mayor Pierre Leroux agreed that for those Russell residents using the city water system, conserving water would not impact homes with well systems, positively or negatively.

“We recently had a water ban on. Many residents were just ignoring it and frivolously washing their driveways,” Saucier said. “If we go into a high-level drought, these are things we have to consider. We did put the restriction in place last year and people did follow it. We need to set an example as a township.”

Leroux reminded council that there is an emergency policy in place whereby the township can implement water restrictions or bans in emergency situations. Denying the bylaw amendment doesn’t change that, he said. Rather than mandating restrictions for outdoor water usage every summer regardless of need, Leroux recommended instituting an education campaign.

With all members of council in agreement, the bylaw amendment was scrapped and the instruction to create a water preservation education campaign was given. Saucier said she will relay the task to the EAC at their August meeting, as they are already working on water saving tips.