Sunday, January 2, 2011

CWRJ Issue on the Hydrogeology of the Châteauguay River Watershed


The Canadian Water Resources Journal has published a special issue on the Hydrogeology of the transboundary Châteauguay River Watershed (2543 km2, 57% in Québec and 43% in New York - 100 000 (or 250 000 depending on the text in the issue) inhabitants on the Canadian side with 20 000 domestic wells, overall dependant on groundwater for 67% of total water use). This is a mostly unconfined or semi-confined aquifer system with northwards groundwater flows that discharge in the St-Lawrence River (see Lavigne, Natsev and Lefebvre, Numerical Simulation of Groundwater Flow in the Châteauguay River Aquifers, p.469 & ff.), making the U.S.A. portion of the aquifer system part of an international watercourse as defined by article 2 of the 1997 UN Convention on non-navigational water uses.

The CWRJ special issue presents the principal results of a large scale project conducted from 2003 to 2007 by a variety of participants on both sides of the border. This is only the 3rd aquifer system mapped in details in Québec. However, it is reported that the success of this project has led to the launch of the current provincial groundwater mapping programme under which five major studies (in la Mauricie, Centre-du-Québec, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Montérégie-Est) are expected to be completed in 2013.

In addition to the wealth of hard scientific information on the Châteauguay watershed, the special issue includes an article exploring groundwater allocation on the Québec side of the watershed from a social science perspective: Marie-Pierre Dagenais, Analyse Sociologique de l'Allocation de l'Eau Souterraine: L'Exemple de Franklin, Québec, p.543 & ff (in French). The events studied by Dagenais' article relate to commercial bottling projects on a municipal territory in an agricultural zone.

The article shows that municipal residents mobilised together with farmers against the bottling projects due to the possibility of water shortage resulting from increased withdrawal. Lack of reliable information and institutional capacity played a significant part in the escalation of the social conflict from the civil society's perspective. At the same time appeared an asymmetrical relationship where administrative authorities at provincial level favoured direct, bilateral and private information sharing with the bottling project promoters to the exclusion of other stakeholders. It seems that the opacity of the institutions for groundwater allocation, as well as the fragmented skein of applicable laws and regulations played a part in the development of the conflict resulting from the bottling projects (the tail end of the ensuing judicial saga was discussed in an older post).

No comments:

Post a Comment