Water, waste and energy

Solar panels on top of the Market Parkade with the Basilica of Our Lady in the background

Guelph is the largest community in Canada to rely almost completely on groundwater for our water supply. Compared to other cities near rivers or lakes, Guelph’s water supply takes longer to replenish, and is more vulnerable to overuse.

That’s why Guelph is very serious about water protection and conservation.

On average, people in Guelph use 30% less water than the average Canadian. A person in Guelph uses about 164 litres of water a day while the average person in Ontario uses 184 litres/day, and the average Canadian uses 220 litres/day.

Using water wisely helps Guelph reduce the cost of operating and maintaining existing water and wastewater systems and defer the cost of adding more water and wastewater treatment and distribution infrastructure as the city continues to grow.

Guelph paused some water conservation programs this year to reduce costs while responding to COVID-19. Community participation was strong when programs resumed. Guelph reduced total water consumption by 98.18 cubic metres (98,180 litres) a day, not quite hitting the target of 166 cubic metres a day.

Still, using less energy to pump and treat water, Guelph reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 12.9 tonnes, and reduced electricity costs by $5,900 this year.

All the water (and anything else) that goes down drains and toilets flows through the City’s sanitary sewers to Guelph’s wastewater treatment plant where it is filtered, treated and released into the Speed River.

In 2020, the Grand River Conservation Authority Watershed Wide Optimization Program awarded Guelph with silver level recognition for the City’s work to improve water quality in the Grand River.

The wastewater treatment plant generates some of its own electricity – and upcoming process upgrades will reduce energy demands by about 6,750,000 kWh/year – about the same amount of electricity used by 750 homes in a year. This will reduce energy costs by approximately $675,000/yr and GHG emissions by more than 200 tonnes CO2e/yr. Detailed design is underway now and expected construction to start by the end of 2021 and be completed by the end of 2023.

The City also reduces carbon emissions through organics waste processing (21,000 tonnes CO2e) and by collecting landfill gas to generate electricity (35,000 tonnes Co2e). In 2019, Guelph residents disposed of 183 kg of waste per person – higher than the provincial average of 179 kg, and lower than the National average of 282 kg. In 2020, with businesses closed and people working at home, Guelph collected 11.5 per cent more residential waste at the curb compared to 2019. The City hopes to maintain or increase its current diversion rate; at least 60% of waste is recycled, composted or otherwise diverted from landfill.  

While Guelph water, wastewater and waste service were maintained throughout the year, the City, while following provincial COVID lockdown orders, closed public access to other facilities, administration offices, museums, theatres, pools and rinks. While they were closed to the public, heating, cooling, ventilation and air conditioning systems were reviewed, and updated to save energy while ensuring indoor air quality meets or exceeds public health guidelines. The City also added 15kW of solar PV generation at the net zero energy snow management facility, upgraded insulation and lighting at several facilities, finished replacing 13,000 non decorative LED streetlights this year. Other energy reducing projects included pool boiler upgrades at Lyon Park and Victoria Road Recreation Centre, insulation and low carbon and energy efficient heating and cooling systems at the Waterworks Heritage Building, decommissioning of the Gordon Street sewage pumping station, ice rink cold water flooding systems, and upgrades to the River Run Centre chiller and hydronic pump.

Plans for the new South End Community Centre will also reflect Guelph’s commitment to environmental sustainability and climate change. When it’s built, it will meet the Canada Green Building Council’s Zero Carbon Building Design Standard.

The City is also making progress converting its vehicle fleet to electric buses, trucks, cars, even ice resurfacers. Supported by funding from the Government of Canada’s Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, Guelph will install 20 public electric vehicle charging stations by the end of 2021.

In 2019, the City’s total energy used for buildings and fleet vehicles was supplied by 24.4 percent renewable energy sources. In 2020, Guelph reduced the energy used in City facilities and fleet vehicles and added renewable generation to bring Guelph closer to the goal of using 100% renewable energy for all operations by the year 2050. The City will share more details in the 2020 sustainability report in July 2021.

Additional 2020 highlights

A masked City worker scraping gypsy moths from a tree into a cup

Keeping track of trees

The City’s tree inventory map now includes more information about the health of Guelph’s urban forest.

Keeping track of trees