A seat at the table
The Canadian National Ground Water Association is the voice of the industry in Ottawa. Learn the latest on its activities and get a better understanding of why it exists
February 2, 2021 By Colleen Cross
Canada’s groundwater industry is a long-established patchwork of provincial associations that work diligently to represent their members.
They understand the geology of their region, they know the predominant types of drilling done, they are well versed in provincial legislation and regulations, and they grasp the challenges their members face. But do we need a national association too?
Many people believe firmly the answer is yes. Some challenges are common to all provinces and territories and some issues need to be raised at the federal level. And with Ottawa growing more and more interested in managing and regulating water through its newly forming Canada Water Agency (see the latest news on page 6), it’s only a matter of time before the federal government comes calling.
When they do, the Canadian National Ground Water Association plans to be there to open the door on an absolutely essential, yet often invisible, industry. A small but mighty force of people passionate about the industry and its role in protecting groundwater are hard at work to make sure that industry is represented nationally. It aims to make clear to Ottawa, and the general public, what we do, why it is essential, how groundwater is different from surface water and what is required to protect it.
The ball has been rolling since the demise of the Canadian Ground Water Association. Volunteers began setting up a new national association to replace the former CGWA and advance the interests of the industry. This federal interest motivated them to keep going. They have met monthly by video call in 2020 to determine what the CNGWA’s priorities and activities should be.
Recognizing that industry members across Canada may have questions, we set out to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
WHY DO WE NEED A NATIONAL ASSOCIATION?
Although the CNGWA’s work is well underway, it’s important to remember why a national body is needed. In a two-part article, “Grappling with Groundwater,” published by Ground Water Canada in 2016, writer Carolyn Camilleri talked with Alfonso Rivera, chief hydrogeologist of Canada, and prominent members of this industry about the potential role and benefits a national association could have. Reviewing that article provides a reminder of why many felt, and still feel, that a national association is crucial.
In the article, Kevin Constable, owner of Fred Constable and Sons in Bradford, Ont., and former president of the original CGWA, makes the case for an educational role. “The biggest advantage of having a Canadian association would be for training, certification, education where the Canadian association would be more in tune with whatever people across the country needed,” Constable said. “The training programs and certification exams could be shared with provinces that didn’t have them.”
Former BCGWA managing director Bruce Ingimundson, who oversaw a national meeting at the last Canwell convention in Kelowna in 2014, said “A provincial association going alone to the federal government wouldn’t carry much weight, but a representative for the whole country would have a greater chance of getting results.”
Rivera said a national association could help the overall management of ground water by establishing national standards for the collection of data, for example, for well yields and water meters to measure usage.
“I would strongly encourage that [the national association] comes back because we need that in Canada,” Rivera said in the article. “It’s not just science. We also need technology: science and technology working together.”
Craig Stainton, executive director of the Ontario and national associations, voiced concern about a lack of co-ordination and enforcement of policy. “If there was someone who could look at every aspect of the groundwater industry and its relationships with all the ministries and co-ordinate everything into a cohesive, sensible approach that could be enforced in a straightforward manner, our groundwater would be safe,” Stainton said. “We would know what we have and be on a perfect and level playing field when someone like the U.S. said they wanted some, or for that matter, when a large corporation tried to make it an export commodity.”
WHAT DOES (AND WHAT SHOULD) THE CNGWA DO?
Many shared their vision for the CNGWA in our survey in 2020. One thoughtful respondent summed up the educational angle: “I think one thing of value is to work with the provinces and federal government to recognize drilling and pump installation as Red Seal trades. Another is developing and delivering drilling/pump installer education.”
Such comments helped shape the CNGWA’s plans and in 2020 culminated in its mission to:
- Increase public awareness of the critical importance of groundwater to Canadian society and the economy.
- Advocate governments and industries to protect and improve the quality of groundwater resources across Canada.
- Contribute industry knowledge and expertise to the development of relevant and effective Canadian federal and provincial groundwater legislation.
- Help prepare future generations of well drillers, contractors, suppliers, scientists, and engineers through outreach, education, and accreditation.
These four roles – to increase awareness, advocate, contribute knowledge and help prepare future generations – will guide the CNGWA in its work.
HOW DOES THE CNGWA RELATE TO THE PROVINCIAL ASSOCIATIONS?
The idea is for the CNGWA to serve as a hub, mutually sharing information among the provinces and territories. With different priorities in different regions, that’s not always an easy sell, says Blaine Matuga, owner of Central Interior Pumps Ltd. in Kamloops, B.C., and president of the national association. “In these early stages we need more time to bring each province in and buy into what the country needs, as a whole.”
Fellow board member Bill MacDonald, who is CEO of Heron Instruments agrees on the importance of associations coming together. “The CNGWA needs local associations to participate and co-operate with bringing similar concerns and issues to the table, so that the CNGWA can package and present these matters to government as a representative of the whole Canadian drilling industry,” MacDonald says.
DO YOU NEED TO BE A MEMBER OF YOUR PROVINCIAL ASSOCIATION TO BE A MEMBER OF CNGWA?
To kick-start collaboration, the CNGWA made everyone involved in the industry a member. “The association was started partially for that reason: no, you don’t,” Matuga says. “The association wants people who are in the field of groundwater to become a member to have a say in how or where they want the association to move forward.”
That said, the CNGWA has the greatest respect for provincial boards and the work they do to represent their members. MacDonald points out the benefits of belonging to both levels. Ideally, he says, members would participate locally first to have a voice nationally.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BECOME VOTING MEMBERS OF THE CNGWA?
All members of the industry – contractors, drillers, pump installers, well technicians, scientists, suppliers and others – are encouraged to become voting members of the CNGWA.
“I joined the association not only to help me as an individual but to support the whole, including the protection of the industry and protection of groundwater,” Matuga says. “The networking of colleagues has always been important, and being a member will set me and my company apart.”
“A national partnership between all provinces can provide education and regulation. It keeps contractors up to date, and makes it profitable when regulation is in place.”
MacDonald believes the industry, as a whole, needs to be aware and understand current issues that the country is facing with groundwater. “We need to know if all of the issues are the same.”
SHOULD NON-OWNERS JOIN IN ADDITION TO THEIR OWNERS? IF SO, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR THEM?
“All individuals in the groundwater-related industry should be members,” Matuga says. “We need their input on what matters to them. Everyone has the right to input – not just the owners.”
To contractors, drillers, installers, techs and others in the field he says, “We need to believe we can make a change for the better, support regulation and pursue education.
To scientists and engineers he says, “With the right people in place there is a need for proper science and engineering to work on old problems and make sure we don’t create new problems.”
To manufacturers and suppliers he says, “These individuals give installers the best tools as they enter into the market with new ideas and new products that will naturally be more profitable for both.”
IS THERE ACCREDITATION OR CERTIFICATION IN THE WORKS?
Accreditation is a hot topic within the industry and a concept that has wide interest among the provinces. The possibility of national industry education and certification comes up often at the board’s monthly video calls. Members of the board agree they are key activities that could benefit the industry and are discussing options for making this happen, including creating a new program or building on resources of the U.S. National Ground Water Association.
“We as an association need to work on numerous opportunities, be open to change, and if change is needed, we will change,” Matuga says. “Certification is just one of those opportunities.”
MacDonald envisions the networking of Canadian drillers, associations and potential certification creating levels of expertise within the industry: one that is certified and another that isn’t: “Membership should be on the individual and it should follow you wherever you work. If you are certified through the CNGWA, that should follow you too. Five years from now when I am looking to hire an employee, I hope my first question is: what levels of CNGWA certification do you possess?”
“If the CNGWA is successful in having certification adopted by government and engineering specifiers on bid tenders, it will have an impact on pricing,” MacDonald says. “Certified contractors are more expensive.”
DOES THE CNGWA HAVE MEETINGS AND CAN ANYONE ATTEND THEM?
As of right now only the board meets monthly to develop the new association. In the near future, the board will require the industry to vote on bylaws and other matters to give it direction. At that point, voting (paid) members will be invited to attend meetings. An open informational virtual meeting is one option the board is considering in the near future.
HOW CAN THE GROUNDWATER INDUSTRY SUPPORT AND PARTICIPATE IN THE ASSOCIATION?
With willing volunteers working hard, financial and volunteer support from the industry is very much needed to take the next steps, which include passing bylaws, exploring training and certification, and advocating to government. The board strongly encourages everyone working in the industry to ask questions, share their ideas and, most importantly, become a voting member.
If you’re involved in the industry, you are automatically an “Associate” member. Making a donation of $100 or more makes you a “Voting” member and lets you participate in meetings and have a vote on association matters when the time comes.
Fill out the membership form in this magazine, making as many copies as you need for co-workers. Mail it or scan and email it to the Canadian National Ground Water Association. You can also download the CNGWA Membership Registration Form from groundwatercanada.com (under “Editor’s Picks”).
That funding is necessary to have the board fully insured to act on the industry’s behalf, to build a website and to fund future activities.
As important as funds is promotional support. The CNGWA needs a cheering section! The board encourages staff and executives of provincial associations to let their members know about the association through newsletters, regional meetings and phone calls, and to encourage them to support and talk up the national association.
To donate and become a voting member, email your completed membership form to email@example.com. You’ll be instructed on payment options. Or you can snail-mail the form along with your cheque to the office in Windsor: University of Windsor, Memorial Hall, Room 203, 401 Sunset Ave., Windsor, ON N9B 3P4.
To learn more, bookmark and check groundwatercanada.com regularly and follow the magazine on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and breaking news.
It’s 2021 and the board is full of energy and optimistic about the association’s progress. MacDonald would like to see the CNGWA “as a united voice for the Canadian industry.”
Matuga firmly believes this industry is full of people who care. “The groundwater industry is a very passionate group of individuals. We want groundwater protection and we can make a difference working together.”
“It takes time to move mountains,” he says. “We need to be recognized as an extremely important association to provincial and the federal government.”
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