Fraserville Water Diversion Project Defeated!

In an unprecedented move Cavan Monaghan Council passed a motion on August 3rd to cease any consideration of diverting Oak Ridges Moraine sourced waters from the town of Millbrook’s wells to service a massive new development in Fraserville, representing a solid victory for the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Earlier this year Earthroots and STORM (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine) Coalition joined local citizens in the Millbrook area in their fight to stop this precedent setting proposal.  A planned new community of approximately 700 houses, accompanied by a new golf course and 120 acres of new employment lands has been planned surrounding the existing Kawartha Downs Casino in Fraserville, Peterborough County.  However, as Fraserville does not have adequate water resources to support this scale of development, the township’s council had been pushing forward an extremely controversial proposal to pipe Oak Ridges Moraine sourced waters 12 kilometers from Millbrook’s wells to service the casino and new development in Fraserville.

This water diversion was the first instance where Earthroots has learned of plans to pipe water from allegedly protected aquifers on the Oak Ridges Moraine to service a new development elsewhere.  While council’s decision in early August has defeated the Water Diversion Proposal and placed a serious road block in the way of planned development in Fraserville, this proposal has still underlined serious gaps in Oak Ridges Moraine’s landmark protection Plan (ORMCP).  As Earthroots first began to engage in this issue, we learned that while numerous measures  in this legislation protect the Moraine’s groundwater resources from development on the Moraine, no protection is triggered when a development sticks a straw into the Moraine to siphon off water from afar!  As the ORMCP has been effective at stopping most development on the Moraine anyway, the real threat to Moraine aquifers at this point is from development off the Moraine.

Fraserville has underlined just how vulnerable the Moraine’s groundwater resources are.  Until Earthroots and STORM joined the fight, local citizens were largely being ignored by their council, who seemed to think the public outcry was just a ‘not in my back yard’ attitude.  By using our clout to garner media attention and arrange meetings with the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Local MPP Rick Johnson, and two Cavan Monaghan councilors, we were able to help build the It’s About Water! campaign and give it the boost it needed.  By raising the profile of the issue, and legitimizing the tireless, strategic work of local grassroots activists, some Cavan Monaghan councilors began asking questions and listening to concerns.

While Fraserville plans are still undergoing the Ministry of the Environments Environmental Assessment process, at the beginning of August 2010 Cavan Monaghan Council finally responded to the overwhelming outcry and legitimate concerns raised by their constituents and scrapped the water diversion proposal in a tight 3-2 decision.

Even though this was a huge victory for the Moraine, the reality of the situation is that under the current legislative framework this proposal could have easily moved forward.  And in most Southern Ontario municipalities it would have - most councils are not nearly as bold or receptive, and the level of community engagement, dedication, and strategic campaigning that stopped this project are a rare thing.

Earthroots has already learned of two other proposals that aim to exploit this same gap in the ORMCP by piping allegedly protected Moraine water to new developments off the Moraine.  In the hamlet of Colgan on the Northwest corner of the Moraine, two new proposed subdivisions are seeking to pipe water from the Oak Ridges Moraine, as the existing community is already struggling with water shortages.  Similarly, in the community of Mount Albert in east Gwillumbury planned growth is stretching local water systems beyond capacity, prompting a proposal to pipe groundwater from the Oak Ridges Moraine north to the community.

The prediction that water will be the new oil for this century is beginning to ring true, even here in Ontario where we have access to a massive percentage of the world’s freshwater.  With this in mind, protecting the Moraine and its invaluable water resources is tantamount to a sustainable future for Southern Ontario.  While our victory in Fraserville gives us hope for the future of the Moraine, it also demonstrates that water shortages and the politics of who can access water and how are already upon us.  The Colgan and Mount Albert proposals underline our fears that the fight to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine is far from over.

To learn more about council’s decision in the Peterborough Examiner, visit click here.

For more information about Earthroots' work to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine, please contact Josh Kohler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.