12 month moratorium on Essex County greenhouse expansions

Members of the Union Water Supply System Joint Board of Management yesterday voted unanimously to place a moratorium on Essex County’s new large service water applications for up to 12 months. This includes greenhouse companies: new developments and proposed expansions. Greenhouse projects already approved but not yet built still have the green light to proceed, but those that don’t move within six months of receiving a municipal go-ahead risk losing their water allocation to someone else. 

Large water service
The Union Water Supply System Board of Management is responsible for considering any application by a municipality within its service area for adding a large water service. The water distribution portion is the responsibility of the respective municipality.

At the January meeting of the UWSS Board, the UWSS General Manager presented a report which highlighted that the potable water demand from the UWSS has been on a steady increase since 2015. "The recent significant increase in water demand is attributed to moderate increase in residential growth but mainly due to significant greenhouse growth in Kingsville and Leamington. Further, some of the water demand increase is likely related to greenhouse crop switchover from food crop to cannabis, which appears to be a more water-intensive crop."

"Of the approved 24.7 million imperial gallons per day of treatment capacity for the UWSS, approximately 2 million IGPD remains to support growth in the UWSS service area. Due to limited remaining available treatment supply for allocation, a process is needed to determine how to allocate the estimated 2.0 MGD of existing capacity. Should the remaining capacity be allocated on a first-come/first-served basis or should it be allocated to each municipality based on current ownership share of UWSS?" the report asked. 

"Current treatment capacity allocation methodology has been mostly focused on the growth in the greenhouse industry and has not really taken into consideration other types of growth in the UWSS service area. For example, the UWSS does not receive applications for treatment capacity from developers (or from the municipalities in which developments are occurring) for residential subdivision developments.

"Based on the substantial growth in the residential sector within the UWSS service area over the last 5 years and project near-future growth in this sector, such developments should be included in the treatment capacity allocation process." 

Now the moratorium was installed. New large water users are required to seek approval for water allocations prior to construction. This includes new greenhouse developments or proposed expansions. There are two parts to the greenhouse water allocation review and approval process. One is focused on whether UWSS has sufficient spare water treatment capacity to support the proposed development. The other step is to determine whether the water distribution system can deliver the required water to the location of the proposed greenhouse development.

Based on the comments and feedback received the UWSS General Manager proposes that a temporary moratorium be implemented immediately on new applications for UWSS treated water allocations for large water users. The temporary moratorium is as follows:

• Applications for new requests for treated water allocations from a new or existing operation that use more than 50,000 litres per day would no longer be reviewed for approval;

• All types of residential developments would be exempt from the moratorium;

• The moratorium would extend for a period of up to 12 months and may be rescinded or extended at the discretion of the UWSS Board based on the review of supporting information.

This is for non-residential applications. The UWSS is using this time to work on reviewing the existing allocations, the plant capacity (and potentially find unused capacity) and to ensure that the water allocation application process is reviewed.

The moratorium will ensure modifications, currently taking place at the water treatment plant, to potentially allow for a re-rating for more capacity within the system.


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