News Release

REF NO.: 84

SUBJECT: Tapping into Newfoundland and Labrador's rural drinking water challenges

DATE: November 27, 2014

With the landscape awash in ponds, rivers and lakes, it is hard to imagine that Newfoundland and Labrador faces significant barriers to safe, sustainable drinking water access. However, those are the findings of a research report released by Memorial University’s Harris Centre today.

The report, Exploring Solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems, led by Dr. Kelly Vodden, of the Grenfell Campus Environmental Policy Institute and a team of Memorial researchers, is the first provincewide, comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, publicly engaged investigation of the challenges rural Newfoundland and Labrador faces in accessing safe drinking water.

Funded through the Harris Centre-RBC Water Research and Outreach Fund, which has funded over a dozen research projects on drinking water in Newfoundland and Labrador over the last four years, the report looks at issues related to source water, drinking water infrastructure and operations, public perceptions of water quality and demand for drinking water, as well as policy and governance. The report also identifies possible solutions and will serve as a guide to policy-makers and future research.

“Small rural communities in this province face unique challenges when it comes to providing safe drinking water to residents,” said Dr. Vodden. “One of the most interesting challenges we observed was in public perception of drinking water – in Newfoundland and Labrador, many residents often turn to alternative unmonitored drinking water sources, such as roadside springs or bottled water, because they believe them to be safer; this leaves communities footing the bill for services not being utilized, and residents putting themselves at risk by using unmonitored water sources.”

The report identifies several potential solutions to drinking water issues, including increased public education and regional collaboration on infrastructure, operations and management. The researchers also recommend further research into water supplies, technology and operations, as well as health implications of disinfectant by-products and alternatives for policy and governance. 

The two-year long project engaged with government and community partners throughout the province to ensure that the research and recommendations would be relevant to towns and communities across the province and could be readily acted upon.

“The aim of this project was to take a holistic look at drinking water issues in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. Rob Greenwood, executive director, Harris Centre. “By looking at the issue from a community perspective, and working with organizations like Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and Professional Municipal Administrators, this report provides a roadmap for further research and a guide for communities to move from identifying issues toward implementing solutions.”

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