What is water worth?

Farmland is parched. Companies are worried. The global demand for water will soon outstrip supply. What's the solution? Simple, say some business leaders and economists: Make people pay more for the most precious commodity on earth.


FORTUNE -- Sarah Woolf's 1,200-acre farm in Cantua Creek, Calif., sits in the Central Valley, which runs in a narrow stretch more than 400 miles through the middle of the state, covering an area about the size of West Virginia. Hemmed in by the Cascade Range to the north, the Tehachapi to the south, and the Sierra Nevada to the east, the valley has long been one of the most bountiful farming regions in the country. Though it has less than 1% of America's farmland, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, it supplies a quarter of the nation's food.

And for the past three years it has suffered the worst drought in almost anyone's memory. In January, with California's river and reservoir levels at record (or near record) lows, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. By March the drought was so severe that the state and federal governments, which both run systems that transport water from the Sierras to the valley, cut off supplies to farmers. That left many of them with two unpleasant options: Buy water on the spot market for up to four times the normal price or cut back sharply on planting.


June 2014 Provincial Election


Ontario voters will be going to the polls in June and Food & Water First is ready!

While the four parties campaign for our support, we’re going to be pressing all the candidates to stand up for this province’s Class 1 farmland and source water regions.


The politicians will be asked to put Food & Water First. We’ll have further details in the coming days.

In the meantime, visit our Sign Depot page and plant a lawn sign.

The campaign for Ontario’s vital agricultural and water resources is underway!

By the Food and Water First News Team

OMB rules against Hunder gravel pit

Keri Martin Vrbanac is ecstatic.

Martin Vrbanac, president of the Conestogo Winterbourne Residents Association, was still flying high nearly a week after finding out that the Ontario Municipal Board has ruled against the proposed Hunder gravel pit.

The battle against the gravel pit, which took seven years of effort from the residents’ association, ended abruptly last week with the OMB ruling, although the applicant, Bob Hunsberger, still has the chance to appeal.

“We are thrilled,” said Martin Vrbanac, when contacted by phone. “Absolutely thrilled. It was the longest seven years of my life.”
Martin Vrbanac became involved a few short days after her youngest child was born, when she received an email about the proposed pit, which would be located between the communities of Conestogo and Winterbourne.

The proposal, if approved, would permit an above groundwater table aggregate operation on an 88.3 hectare parcel of land, with the extraction taking up 62.1 hectares. The proposal also included a plan to recycle concrete and asphalt as an accessory use on the lands on Hunsberger Road.

A few residents decided to get together to talk about what could be done about the proposal, including Martin Vrbanac.

She recalls her husband, John, telling her that she didn’t have enough time to get involved, and that she should quit the group before it became really active. By the time she left the meeting, however, she had been chosen president of the residents’ group.
She didn’t realize what she was getting into.
“We had no idea,” said Martin Vrbanac. “It was very time-consuming.
“We had endless hours of meetings, planning, meeting with lawyers, meeting with the township, and meeting with the community,” said Martin Vrbanac. “It was actually a relief when it went to the OMB. Now we would finally get a decision.”

The decision rendered by OMB vice-chairman Susan de Avellar Schiller, looked at a number of issues, including the proximity of the gravel pit to the neighbouring residential areas, the cumulative impact from both the proposed Hunder pit and the already approved Jigs Hollow pit, as well as the loss of prime agricultural land that would come as a result of the gravel pit.

Township mayor Todd Cowan felt that these were important factors in the overall decision against the Hunder pit.
“The board found that the combined impact of both (pits) would be a negative impact,” said Cowan. “There has to be some cumulative impact.”

Cowan said he was thrilled at the decision rendered by the OMB, and he pointed to other successes the township has enjoyed in other gravel pit applications of concern.

For instance, the Capital Paving application for the community of West Montrose was withdrawn, after the township embarked on a number of measures to protect the West Montrose community, including the West Montrose Cultural Heritage Landscape.

Cowan said the CHL, once the designation is official, will make it nearly impossible for a gravel pit to set up near the community.
“This will close the door firmly on any type of gravel pit operation in West Montrose.”

Cowan noted that these measures introduced by the township, along with a new, higher fee for processing gravel pit applications, were simply a means of protecting the township from aggregate operations that are not appropriate.

“Our infrastructure is in need of gravel for roads and bridges,” acknowledged Cowan. “We’re just saying we have to have mineral aggregate operations where they should be, not in someone’s backyard.”

Hunder Developments has until May 14 to appeal the decision of the OMB. Until then, residents and the township are being cautiously optimistic.
“It’s a great feeling, it really is,” said Martin Vrbanac. “Even if it is appealed and they win, this is still a victory.”

By Gail Martin
Posted on southwesternontario.ca, Apr. 25, 2014


The decision rendered by OMB vice-chairman Susan de Avellar Schiller, looked at a number of issues, including the proximity of the gravel pit to the neighbouring residential areas, the cumulative impact from both the proposed Hunder pit and the already approved Jigs Hollow pit, as well as the loss of prime agricultural land that would come as a result of the gravel pit.

  Read official OMB decision.

Recycled Aggregate Act - March 27, 2014

The Provincial government will soon be reviewing certain planning documents, such as the Niagara Escarpment legislation and plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine legislation, the Greenbelt plan and others.

The Peel Federation of Agriculture (PFA) wants to know how these documents are affecting rural and agricultural development, and they want to hear from both members and non-members. Read more.

  •        Attached is Sylvia Jones Recycled Aggregate Act Committee Hansard.  The part hi-lited in yellow is interesting, Bob Shapton’s deputation and her response.  Starts on page 11.

Ten farms in Greater Lehigh Valley are saved in preservation program

The 25-year-old farmland preservation program run by the state of Pennsylvania has done it again. It has preserved another 28 farms by enabling state, county and local governments to buy conservation easements from the owners of great farmland. As the Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary explained: "Together we're preserving agriculture, the cornerstone of Pennsylvania's economy."

Ontario's agri-food sector is the largest in Canada, pumping $34-billion into the economy each year. Yet there is no program in place to preserve the farmland it depends on. Perhaps it's time the Ontario government takes a closer look at the Pennsylvania success story.

Read more.