Protecting drinking water in rural areas

Mo Laidlaw
Luskville, June 4, 2003.

The first signs are going up to identify the location of drinking water wells on and near farmland. The signs show water from a tap going into a glass. Today, Mme Diane Clément, vice-president of the UPA Outaouais-Laurentides (farmers’ union), announced that by the end of July, 240 signs will have been put up in the Outaouais.
The announcement was made on Mario Allen’s farm in Luskville—he is president of the local UPA. Other speakers at the press conference were Linda Larocque of the MAPAQ office in Shawville and Marc Bélanger of UPA Outaouais-Laurentides. Marc Dubreuil of the ministry of the environment was also present.
It is forbidden to use manure, fertilizers, compost or pesticides within 30 metres of a well, or where these materials could run off into the buffer zone surrounding the well. The aim of this is to protect artesian wells, surface wells and springs, and avoid contamination. This will protect drinking water for farming families and their neighbours, as well as for farm animals.
Next year there will be another campaign to put up more signs. There are already 50 names on the waiting list for signs. Farmers can apply to their local UPA for signs to identify their own and their neighbours’ wells. For wells on neighbours’ property, the signs will be located where easily seen from the field, not necessarily at the well-head.
Information leaflets are available in English and French, as well as stickers to go inside tractor cabs to remind operators not to spread materials within 30 metres of the signs. There are already restrictions on spreading manure and chemical fertilizers near watercourses, and at times of year when plants are not growing, to limit run-off.
According to Mme Clement, the strong support by farmers for this drinking water protection campaign shows that farmers want to protect the environment and our water resources. Putting up a sign encourages good relations between farmers and their neighbours, and shows respect for the environment.
The production of the signs and posts was made possible by financial support from several organizations, including le Conseil pour le développement de l’agriculture du Québec, Agriculture and Agro-Food Canada, the Québec ministries of agriculture (MAPAQ) and the environment (MENV), the CRDO, Laval Technopole, and Agro-environment clubs of Outaouais and Laurentides.
Non-farming residents with wells may choose to follow the farmers’ example, and not spread or mix fertilizer and pesticides near their source of drinking water.

This pictogram indicates the presence of a well, artesian well, surface well or spring.