Truro Heights Well Water Survey Report

Municipality of the County of Colchester
Truro Heights
Well Water Survey
Report
July 2016
Joanna Burris
Planning Student
Colchester Community Development
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Created by Joanna Burris, Planning Student
With the guidance of Paul Smith, Senior Planner
Municipality of the County of Colchester Community Development
1 Church Street, Truro NS
July 2016
This version of the Truro Heights Well Water Survey Report was edited to protect the privacy of
individual property owners and business owners in Truro Heights. For more information, please
contact the Colchester Community Development Department (902-897-3170).
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Truro Heights Well Water Survey Report
Executive Summary
The Truro Heights Well Water Survey was conducted by the Community Development Department
during the summer of 2016. The purpose of the study was to investigate concerns that had been expressed
by property owners in the residential and commercial area south of Truro Heights Connector Rd. and north of
the Millbrook boundary line. The goals of the study were to gain a better understanding of the extent of
quality and quantity issues in the specified area and to gauge property owners’ interest in connecting to a
central water system. This study follows a similar survey that was conducted about 20 years earlier in an
attempt to evaluate the need for central water. Although property owners opposed the idea in the past, the
project was revisited due to ongoing complaints and the seemingly worsening condition of groundwater in
this area.
The survey was administered using a mail-out questionnaire which was delivered to all property
owners of developed land in the area. Property owners were given over two weeks to complete the survey
and were asked to return it my mail or by email. The survey included questions that requested identifying and
property information, descriptions of both quality and shortage issues that had been experienced on the
property and opinions about current satisfaction and whether they would want to connect to a central
system if it was available.
Out of the 194 surveys that were mailed out, fifty-seven percent were returned. Close to fifty percent
of all returned surveys indicated that the property had experienced water quality issues, and seventeen
percent of surveys described a water shortage issue. The water issues in the study area were divided into four
distinct areas based on proximity and type of issue. The two main areas of concern were 1) Keywest Ct.,
Annabelle Dr., and the very top sections of Truro Heights Rd. and Morley Ave.; and 2) Rocky Ridge Rd.,
Urquhart Dr. and the lower half of Morley Ave. The first area (Area 1) experienced both significant shortages
and declining water quality, according to property owners. This area has had over sixteen new multi-unit
buildings go up since 2000 and has the highest density of units in the study area, aside from a single 9-unit
building. Property owners in Area 1 have explained that the water quality and quantity have been lowering in
recent years, which seems to have a very strong link to the area’s intensification. Area 2, around Rocky Ridge
Rd., is the location of all but one of the properties where the water in considered undrinkable. Issues in this
area are mostly quality issues, except for a few shortages near the southern end. Several property owners
from this area have indicated that their water has had the same poor quality for close to or over twenty
years. The main issues in this area pertain to discolouration, odour, taste, staining of plumbing fixtures and
rust and sediment build-up. Quality issues in this area seem to be solely caused by a high concentration of
naturally occurring minerals in the groundwater. The properties in this area with perfect water likely have
wells drilled into different fractures than those without.
A few common issues across the study area were high iron content, which seems to be the cause of
many other issues, poor taste and odour, seasonal aesthetic issues and hard water. There were also a few
reports of bacterial presence.
Based on the survey responses received, the condition of well water in the study area is a concern to
residents. It seems as though the main causes of water issues in the study area are high concentrations of
minerals in specific groundwater fractures and the intensification of development. Although there are
properties with reported perfect water conditions, half the properties are experiencing some water issues,
some of which are reported to be very serious. There appear to be more property owners who are
satisfied with their well water than those who are not, but a higher proportion would consider
connecting to a central water system than would not. To ensure that everyone in the area has access to
clean, safe water, the Community Development Department will report the findings of this investigation to
Colchester County Council, who will in turn provide direction on how this issue should be addressed.
Residents should check the Municipal website periodically for further updates and possible public meeting
notices.
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Contents
Executive Summary ....................................................................................................................................... v
1.0 Project Definition .................................................................................................................................... 1
2.0 Background & Rationale .......................................................................................................................... 1
3.0 Research Methods................................................................................................................................... 2
3.1 Study Area ........................................................................................................................................... 2
3.2 Timeline ............................................................................................................................................... 3
3.3 Survey Methods .................................................................................................................................. 3
3.3.1 Survey Development .................................................................................................................... 3
3.3.2 Sample Population ....................................................................................................................... 5
3.3.3 Data Collection Process ................................................................................................................ 5
4.0 Methods of Data Analysis........................................................................................................................ 6
5.0 Results ..................................................................................................................................................... 9
6.0 Discussion .............................................................................................................................................. 13
7.0 Limitations and Delimitations ............................................................................................................... 19
8.0 Conclusions & Moving Forward ............................................................................................................ 21
References ................................................................................................................................................... 22
Acknowledgements ..................................................................................................................................... 22
Appendix A – Survey.................................................................................................................................... 23
Appendix B – Research on Optimal Survey Type ........................................................................................ 24
Appendix C – Letter to Property Owners .................................................................................................... 28
Appendix D – Population Density and Well Depth Maps ............................................................................ 28
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1.0 Project Definition
Clean, safe water is an essential part of a person’s well-being – it is necessary not only for survival but
for so many other elements that contribute to a good quality of life. The Municipality of the County of
Colchester is situated in Nova Scotia, Canada, where residents are fortunate to have access to clean
freshwater every day of the year. The municipal government has a responsibility, as the governing body
closest to the people, to listen to its constituents and their needs, especially when it comes to a resource
as important and life-giving as water. This study was conducted as a direct result of complaints received
from residents regarding the condition of water in Truro Heights.
The purpose of this study was two-fold: to gain a better understanding of the extent of quality and
quantity issues in the Truro Heights area, and to gauge property owners’ interest in a central water
system. The study was conducted using a mail-out survey to residents. This method was used rather
than doing formal water testing in the area for several reasons: the department wanted to understand
how water issues were affecting members of the community and how serious they perceived these
issues to be; many residents have their wells tested regularly and would already be aware of any serious
issues; a survey of the entire area allowed for a more holistic understanding of quality and quantity
patterns in the area; and a survey is extremely cost-effective.
The results of this study will directly influence the Community Development Department’s next steps for
community consultation and will be used to inform the Municipal Council’s decision on the direction
taken to address the issues presented in this report.
The survey was carried out in May and June of 2016 because of the availability of the Community
Development summer student to dedicate time to the project and the need to address climbing
numbers of complaints. The study was completed by Joanna Burris, Planning Student, with the
assistance and guidance of Paul Smith, Senior Planner.
2.0 Background & Rationale
This study was not the first of its kind in Truro Heights; this area was surveyed for feedback on water
quality and a central water system about 20 years previously. Some surveys reported poor water quality
and public consultation was initiated to discuss the possibility of extending central water into the
surveyed neighbourhoods. It is unclear whether the same study area boundaries were used for the
previous survey. Most property owners that participated were averse to the idea and the project was
abandoned due to widespread concerns that water quality and quantity were not issues at that time.
The Community Development Department decided to pick the issue up again in the spring of 2016 after
several more complaints had been received from area property owners and the situation appeared to
have worsened.
Before a survey was conducted to evaluate the severity of the situation, three well-drilling companies
from the Truro area were consulted about any existing water issues that they had encountered in Truro
Heights or been told about by clients. The comments supplied by the well-drilling companies indicated
that there have been water quality and water shortage issues in Truro Heights in the past.
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Additional research, separate from the survey, was also conducted to determine the type of bedrock in
the study area. A geology map of the Truro area from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources
was useful in determining this information. See the paragraphs below for descriptions of each bedrock
type. The Wolfville Formation can be found around Lower Truro, Bible, Salmon River and parts of Truro.
Around McClures Mills, Hilden, part of Millbrook and part of Truro, the bedrock belongs to the Cheverie
Formation. This includes the very top part of the study area, covering sections of the properties on the
Truro Heights Connector Rd. Most of the study area is part of the Horton Bluff Formation (upper
member), as is a section of Millbrook (Naylor, Giles & Brisco, 2005).
Fundy Group
WOLFVILLE FORMATION (LTFw): variably sorted, medium- to coarse-grained, brownish-red
sandstone, pebbly sandstone and conglomerate near the base, with minor mudrock interbeds
Horton Group
CHEVERIE FORMATION (ECHC): grey-green to minor maroon sandstone, locally granule to pebbly
conglomerate, interbedded with maroon to minor grey-green mudrock
HORTON BLUFF FORMATION, UPPER MEMBER (ECHhbu): light- to medium-grey, thick sandstone
(quartz arenite), interbedded with grey shale, micaceous mudrock, greenish-grey mudrock and
nodular dolostone, minor granule conglomerate (Naylor, Giles & Brisco, 2005)
3.0 Research Methods
3.1 Study Area
The study area for this project was a primarily residential community in Truro Heights with a few
commercial properties on Truro Heights Connector Road, Parkway Drive and Alderbrook Drive. This area
was identified for the survey because many of the complaints received about the water condition in
Truro Heights came from residents of properties within the boundaries indicated below. This area is also
in close proximity to the existing central water system that services the Millbrook Power Centre.
The specific geographic area included in the study is bounded to the north by the Truro Heights
Connector Road and to the east by Highway 102, and includes the following streets: Parkway Drive,
Alderbrook Drive, Annabelle Drive, Keywest Court, Morley Avenue, Urquhart Drive, Franklin Drive, Rocky
Ridge Road, Rosalind Drive, Roslindale Drive, Chantilly Lane, Chiasson Way and portions of Truro Heights
Road and Truro Heights Connector Road. The following map displays this area geographically.
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Commercial
Residential
Figure 1. Map of the Truro Heights study area. (Map source: Google Maps, 2016. Map edited by
Joanna Burris, Municipality of the County of Colchester Community Development, June 2016.)
3.2 Timeline
The initial round of surveys was distributed on May 30, 2016, with a return deadline of June 17, 2016.
Residents were asked to return surveys before this date; however, some surveys continued to trickle in
for several weeks after the deadline. Additionally, surveys that had been returned, undelivered, by
Canada Post we re-mailed up to ten days after the initial distribution date.
3.3 Survey Methods
3.3.1 Survey Development
The Truro Heights Well Water study was conducted through the use of a survey questionnaire. A survey
is a relatively quick and cheap way to obtain information from a large number of people. Another
interactive research method that could have been implemented was the interview; however, interviews
are costly and time-consuming to conduct (Palys & Atchison, 2014). Using the survey allowed the
Department to consult a greater number of people in a short amount of time. Please see Appendix A for
a full version of the survey.
Preliminary online research was completed to determine which type of survey would be the optimal
choice for this study. Options included a mail-out survey, a browser-based survey, and a combination of
the two. Please refer to Appendix B for a complete summary of this research. It was determined that a
mail-out survey would be the best choice. The Municipality is not supplied with email addresses for all
property owners, and therefore the link to an online survey would have had to be distributed using
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regular mail, diminishing the cost-saving benefits of a browser-based survey. Additionally, studies show
that response rates are generally lower for online surveys than for mail-outs. Mail-to-internet surveys
have particularly low response rates, even compared to email-to-internet surveys (Shih & Fan, 2008;
Campbell Rinker, 2015). The varied age demographic within the study area also contributed to the
choice of survey type. Although there are many young and middle-aged residents in the study area,
there is also a significant older population (Statistics Canada, 2011). While most property owners may
have been able to complete an online survey, mail-out surveys are accessible to everyone, since they
only require access to a mail box or post office, and postage would be paid for by the Municipality.
To make the process as easy as possible for respondents and to encourage a higher response rate,
respondents were provided with two options for returning the survey: by regular mail using a pre-paid
and addressed envelope that accompanied the survey or by taking a photo or scan of the completed
survey and emailing it to the Department.
The survey was printed on a single page, single sided, for two reasons; if the survey was short, more
people would be inclined to complete it, and it allowed for respondents to more easily scan and return
the survey. To keep the questionnaire short, only integral questions were included.
The first two questions on the survey were single response questions that would provide a bit of
personal information about the respondents. This was essential for linking responses with properties to
interpret the results and discover trends. The following question was a categorical response question
combined with single response (see Question 3 below).
3. Please indicate (with a checkmark) the description that best fits your property:




Your residence
Rental unit(s)
# of occupants : _____
# of units: _____
# of occupants : _____
Commercial
Other (Please indicate: ___________________________)
Figure 2. Survey question #3 regarding property type and number of units and occupants.
Question 3 was necessary for understanding whether water issues were present in residential or
commercial areas.
Questions 4 and 5 were presented in an identical format that combined a Yes/No question with an
open-ended question, allowing respondents to elaborate on their selection. Question 4 pertained to the
water quality of the well water while Question 5 asked about water shortage issues. Question 6 allowed
respondents to express their feelings about their current water system. This was an opinion question,
whereas the previous questions requested factual responses, and it was framed in the form of a Likert
Scale. Respondents were asked how they felt about the statement: “I am happy with my water system
the way it is.” This question allowed the Municipality to understand how residents perceive their water
quality, which is extremely important.
The final question was another opinion question asking whether or not property owners would connect
their properties to central water, if it was available. This question was essential for understanding
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property owners’ interest in and acceptance of the idea of central water in the neighbourhood. The last
part of the survey was a space for additional comments.
Instructions for returning the survey, as well as the deadline, were provided at the top of the survey.
3.3.2 Sample Population
The target population for this study included every owner of one or more developed properties within
the defined study area. Only property owners with a residential or commercial building on their land
were surveyed; owners of undeveloped land were not contacted, since there would be no well drilled or
used regularly on those properties. The total number of individuals in the target population was under
200, therefore, rather than surveying a representative sample, the survey was distributed to the entire
population. This way, the results would more accurately represent the circumstances of all property
owners, and all members of the population would have an equal opportunity to share their experiences.
3.3.3 Data Collection Process
Surveys were printed on single-sided sheets of 8.5”x11” sized paper and were accompanied by a letter
printed on a separate sheet of paper with a municipal letterhead explaining what the survey was about,
why it was being conducted, and how to return it to the department. The two sheets were folded
together and placed into envelopes, along with a pre-stamped return envelope that was addressed to
the Community Development Department, located at 1 Church Street, Truro NS. Labels with addresses
were printed, placed on the envelopes, and the envelopes were stamped and mailed out to the
properties in the study area using regular mail.
The surveys were mailed to the civic addresses of the properties in the study area and were addressed
to the property owner. A few surveys were rejected by Canada Post due to incomplete or non-existent
addresses, likely due to differences between civic and mailing addresses, or were refused by the
residents. These surveys were then re-mailed directly to the home addresses of the property owner.
The letter and survey included a clear deadline, requiring the survey to be returned by the 17th of June,
2016 – seventeen days after they were mailed out, giving owners several weekdays and two weekends
to complete the survey. Most surveys were returned by regular mail; however, about 9% of returned
surveys were returned by email, so it was a good decision to provide both options.
The surveys were distributed to both commercial and residential properties within the study area (see
Figure 1). Surveys were addressed to property owners rather than tenants to ensure that only one
survey was completed per property and so that owners could give feedback about connecting their
properties to a central water system.
In addition to survey data, for the sake of data analysis other data sources were consulted to attempt to
explain the trends in the survey results. These included Nova Scotian geology maps, population density
data and well log data. The geology information was obtained from an open map on the Nova Scotia
Department of Natural Resources website. Data on the number of units on each property in the study
area was used to display trends in population density and was obtained from the Property Information
Department of the Municipality of the County of Colchester. Well data was found in the Nova Scotia
Environment Well Log Database, accessed through the NS Environment website.
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4.0 Methods of Data Analysis
The initial step for data analysis was to transcribe survey results directly into a spreadsheet without
coding, so that the spreadsheet could act as a database of exact survey responses all in one place. When
addresses or names were missing from responses, they were looked up in a property information
spreadsheet provided by the Property Information Department. These properties were indicated with
an asterisk next to the address in case of discrepancy so that it remained clear that the respondent did
not supply the address.
The survey results spreadsheet included thirteen columns with the following headings, based on the
survey questions:













Survey number
Date received
Name of property owner
Street/address
Property type
# of units
# of occupants
Quality issues & description
Shortage issues & description
Happy with water system the way it is?
Would connect to central water?
Additional comments
Researcher’s notes
To analyze and interpret the data, the open-ended questions on the survey were coded and assigned to
categories.
The descriptive water quality data supplied by respondents in Question 4 was coded using both
deductive and inductive techniques. Five initial categories were created ranging from perfect water to
extremely poor water quality based on the anticipated results of the surveys. The descriptions for each
category were adjusted while properties were being placed into each of the five to ensure the
categories were suited to the data. After coding was completed, the assignments were reviewed to
ensure that each property was placed in the appropriate category. This review process revealed that the
category descriptions were not specific enough to be mutually exclusive, and so the category definitions
were adjusted slightly again. The data was then reviewed and coded a third time to ensure that each
response was placed in the proper category. Table 1 shows the final descriptions for each category:
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Table 1. Code used to categorize qualitative responses on water quality. Note that only one of the list
items in a category must be true for a response to fit in that category.
WATER QUALITY
Code
5
Perfect water, no complaints.
4
Water is usually fine; minor seasonal issues.
3
Water quality is not great, but is improved with a filter. Hard water, requires
water softener; mild but consistent issues having to do with taste, odour or
colour (not harmful). Significant seasonal issues. Generally unpleasant water.
2
Several significant and consistent water quality issues; very unpleasant; regular
or recurring issues with bacteria or need for UV light.
1
Quality renders water undrinkable. Harmful chemicals or bacteria despite
filtration system.
0
No data.
The categories were each assigned a colour and a number; 1 and red represent the lowest quality while
5 and green represent the highest quality. The numbers were necessary for data input into mapping
software while the colours were important for visual representation and analysis.
Coding for responses regarding water quantity was done in a very similar way to water quality except
with only three categories. The categories were designed to correspond in severity with the five
categories for quantity, such that the highest category (green, 5) represents no shortage issues while the
lowest (red, 1) represents significant shortage issues.
Because the survey data was self-reported and water was not actually tested, the categories are based
on property owners’ perceptions of the condition of their well water. Following are the three categories
and their associated descriptions.
Table 2. Code used to categorize qualitative responses on water quantity.
WATER QUANTITY
Code
5
No quantity problems
3
Occasionally have shortage issues
1
Often or constantly have water shortage issues
The responses to Questions 6 and 7 on the survey did not require coding, since Question 6 already
associated respondents’ feelings with numbers and Question 7 was a simple Yes/No question. Additional
comments from respondents were typed directly into the results spreadsheet. These comments were
considered later when evaluating the perceived severity of residents’ water condition – many
respondents had some passionate things to say.
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The survey data was then mapped using Esri ArcMap and property data obtained from the Colchester
County Property Information Department. Five maps were created in total with the responses from
survey Questions 4 through 7 (maps based on survey data are not included in this version of the report –
please contact the Community Development Department for more information). For the two maps
representing the quality and quantity of well water in the study area, the coded data was inputted into
the mapping software and each number was then assigned a colour to match those in the tables above.
The resulting maps displayed the extent of the quality and quantity issues on each property. Properties
without survey responses were either assigned the category No Data or Undeveloped Land, depending
on their status.
A third map was created to show the general condition of water at each property; to accomplish this,
the codes given to each property for water quality were added to the codes for water quantity to create
a new scale out of 10. By simply adding the values together, both quality and quantity were given equal
weighting in the combined score and were therefore considered equally important for the purpose of
this study. The new values for each property were inputted into the mapping software. The colour
scheme for the combined scale also has green at one end and red at the other with a spectrum in
between.
A fourth map was created using the data from Question 6 on the survey. Responses, which were all
numerical values between 1 and 5, were assigned to their respective properties on ArcMap. Since the
question pertained to property owners’ satisfaction with their water quality, the colour scheme used for
the Quality map worked well to represent this: green for happy property owners, red for unhappy
property owners and a spectrum in between.
A fifth map was created using Question 7, the final question on the survey. The data was easily
separated into three categories: “Yes”, “No” and “Other”. Examples of the types of responses in the
“Other” category can be found in the following section, 5.0 Results. Each category was assigned a colour:
dark blue, bright blue or dark grey. This colour scheme was intentionally created to be different than the
other maps, since responses indicated property owners’ opinions and could be categorized as neither
good nor bad; therefore it did not seem appropriate to use the red/green spectrum.
In addition to data obtained from the survey, additional research was conducted on factors that could
influence well water in this area, such as bedrock type and depth, well depth and population density.
Bedrock type in the study area was found using a bedrock geology map of the Truro area. The two types
of bedrock in the study area were noted, as well as the location of the boundary between them. This
knowledge was not further analyzed on its own, but used to interpret the survey results. Density was
mapped using existing property data rather than the number of units indicated by the respondents. The
data for number of occupants was not supplied by enough respondents to be of value.
The well depths found in the NS Well Log Database for properties in the study area were put into a
spreadsheet and then added to the study area map, creating a map showing patterns in well depth
throughout the study area. Since not all properties were found in the Well Log Database, the well depth
data was used with caution and not as an entirely reliable reference. The well depth map can be found
in Appendix D.
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5.0 Results
Fifty-seven percent (111 out of 194) of the surveys that were distributed were returned to the
department. Initially 195 surveys were distributed; however, one property held only a personal garage
for a neighbouring property, and so the figure 194 is used when referring to the number of developed
properties involved in the study.
Fifty-five respondents indicated that they had experienced some form of water quality issue, ranging
from infrequent and mild to consistent and severe. The types of quality issues described by respondents
included the following:











Unpleasant smell and/or taste
Cloudy or “dirty” water
Discolouration (rust-coloured, brown, yellow) and staining of clothes or water fixtures
High iron content, rust build-ups and blockages
High magnesium, calcium and/or hydrogen sulfide content
Presence of arsenic, tannins, coliform and/or bacteria
Lower quality of water during dry periods
Presence of heavy metals
Water full of sediments
Seasonal deterioration of water quality
Hard water; necessary to use water softener to drink/use well water
Nineteen respondents indicated that they had experienced some form of water shortage issue. The
types of quantity issues described by respondents included the following:



Low water levels during all seasons
Water shortage/lack of water during summer months or dry periods
Decrease in water quantity following construction of neighbouring multi-unit buildings
The two following charts show a comparison between the severity of property owners’ responses
regarding both water quality and water shortages, using the colour scheme and rating scale presented in
section 4.0 Methods of Data Analysis. The percentages refer to the proportion of the total responses for
Questions 4 and 5 that fit into each category.
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Quality
6%
5; Perfect water, no complaints.
4%
4; Water is usually fine; minor seasonal issues.
3; Water quality is not great, but is improved with
a filter. Hard water, requires water softener; mild
but consistent issues having to do with taste,
odour or colour (not harmful). Significant seasonal
issues. Generally unpleasant water.
51%
34%
2; Several significant and consistent water quality
issues; very unpleasant; regular or recurring issues
with bacteria or need for UV light.
1; Quality renders water undrinkable. Harmful
chemicals or bacteria despite filtration system
5%
Quantity
13%
4%
5; No quantity problems
3; Occasionally have water shortage issues
1; Often or constantly have water shortage issues
83%
Figures 3 & 4. Charts showing the distribution of the severity of water quality issues and water
shortage issues.
In order to represent this information geographically and to understand which areas in the study area
correspond with each colour, this data was inputted into maps, which have been omitted from this
version to protect the privacy of property owners.
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In survey Question 6, respondents were asked to rate, on a scale of one to five, the degree to which they
agreed with the statement: “I am happy with my water system the way it is.” The following graph
displays respondents’ contentedness with their current water system. The graph also indicates the
proportion of respondents in each category who had experienced some form of water issue, whether
qualitative or quantitative, from those that did not.
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Number of respondents
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
0
1; Disagree
strongly
2; Disagree
somewhat
3; Neither agree
nor disagree
4; Agree
somewhat
5; Agree strongly
Level of agreement
No issues
Experienced some form of water issue
Figure 5. Graph displaying the distribution of responses to the statement: "I am happy with my
water system the way it is." (survey Question 6).
Twenty-six percent of respondents either disagreed strongly or disagreed somewhat with the
statement; 22% neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement; and 52% either agreed strongly or
agreed somewhat with the statement.
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When asked if they would connect their property to a central water system if it was available, 45% of
respondents answered “Yes”, 36% of respondents answered “No” and 19% of respondents were unsure
or unable to answer the question, supplied a conditional answer or left the question blank. The
following chart displays this data graphically.
Other
19%
Yes
45%
No
36%
Figure 6. Chart displaying the distribution of responses to the question: “If it was available in your
neighbourhood, would you connect your property to a central water system?” (survey Question 7).
This chart shows that there are more property owners who want to connect to central water than those
that do not. There is also a significant number of respondents who could not commit to a Yes /No
answer. According to respondents’ comments, the main reason for this uncertainty was that they
required more information about the total cost of connecting before they could make a decision. Others
simply left the question blank or did not explain their responses.
About 68% of respondents that experienced water issues, whether quantitative or qualitative, indicated
that they were interested in connecting to central water. Additionally, most respondents that were
interested in connecting had experienced water issues; however, about 10% of respondents wanted to
connect to central water even though they had not experienced any water issues. In their comments,
some property owners attributed this to concern over diminishing water quantity and quality due to
new multi-unit developments, or concern for fire safety and the need for fire hydrants in the area.
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6.0 Discussion
By comparing the maps for water quality and quantity, it is clear that there are similarities between the
maps and that there are areas that suffer from both types of issues. Not all of the properties that
experience quality issues have water shortages, but nearly all of the properties with shortages
experience water quality issues.
The table and the map below identify four distinct areas within the larger study area that contain
properties that are geographically proximate and experience similar water issues.
** Please note that not all properties located in each area experienced the same severity of issues and
some did not experience issues at all. Additionally, the data presented below represents the results
provided by 57% of all property owners that were surveyed. The condition of the well water on properties
that did not return the survey is not assumed to be similar to those that were surveyed. The quality of
water is dependent of the depth and specific location of each well and can differ from one property to
the next. **
Table 3. Descriptions of each problem area.
Streets included
Keywest Ave., Annabelle Dr., Truro Heights Rd.
Area 1
(above Franklin Dr.), top half of Morley Ave.
Rock Ridge Rd., lower half of Morley Ave.,
Area 2
Urquhart Dr.
Area 3
Parkway Dr., Truro Heights Connector Rd.
Area 4
Truro Heights Rd. (below Chiasson Way) and
east end of Chantilly Ln.
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Description of issues
Quality and quantity; residential
Mainly quality; residential
Solely quality; commercial
Quality and quantity; residential
Area 3
Area 1
Area 4
Area 2
Figure 7. Map showing the main problem areas outlined in blue. Descriptions for each area are
found in Table 3 above.
Area 1
Area 1 appears to be a pocket of both quality issues, ranging from fair to poor, and frequent shortage
issues in the following spots: Keywest Court, Annabelle Drive, and Truro Heights Road, from the
Connector Road almost to Franklin Drive. The following map images show the water quality, water
quantity and a combined map for this particular zone.
This “pocket” has the highest density in the study area, aside from the 9-unit property on Chantilly Lane.
There are many two-unit buildings on Keywest Court, Annabelle Drive and Truro Heights Road, and
several four-unit buildings and a pair of six-unit buildings on Truro Heights Road. The following map
shows the density by number of units for the entire study area.
14
Figure 8. Map showing the density in the study area by number of units, with a blue box around
the Area 1. For a full-sized map and data sources, see Appendix D.
In Area 1 there appears to be a correlation between the condition of water and the number of units.
This dense area would have many people drawing groundwater, lowering the water table and
potentially causing shortages. The remaining water could therefore have an increased concentration of
solvents resulting in decreased quality. This correlation is supported by the observations of a few
respondents who indicated that the water condition has declined since the construction of several
multi-unit buildings in the area. The water shortages in Area 1 are more severe than the quality issues,
so it is possible that the density directly impacts the quantity of groundwater and that the quality is
indirectly affected as a result.
Since 2000, there have been over 18 new developments in Area 1, at least sixteen of which have twounits or more. Keywest Court alone had two single-unit buildings and seven two-unit buildings built
during this time. The strong correlation between the increased density and increase in water issues
shows that the poor water condition in Area 1 can be attributed to intensification.
Outside Area 1, the only area with significant shortage issues is around the cul-de-sac on Rocky Ridge
Road in Area 2.
15
Area 2
Another spot in the study area with significant water quality issues is Area 2: Rocky Ridge Road, both
halfway down the street and in the cul-de-sac, the bottom half of Morley Avenue and Urquhart Drive.
While properties in Area 1 were most likely impacted by the intensification of development and the
depletion of the water table, properties in Area 2 with quality issues may simply be the result of the
mineral concentration of the groundwater in the particular fractures into which the wells were drilled.
The property owners with the worst quality issues on Rocky Ridge Road and Morley Avenue have
indicated that they have lived at their properties for close to twenty years or longer and have had the
same quality of well water since the start. Quality issues on these two streets, which include staining of
fixtures, discolouration, sedimentation, odours and poor taste, are likely caused by high concentrations
of minerals and sediments in the specific groundwater fractures. Both the location and depth of each
well would determine the quality of water drawn, which explains why some properties with excellent
water are situated near properties with a much lower quality.
The quality of well water on Rocky Ridge Road is a major concern; all properties but one on the street
reported having some kind of water issue and many have severe quality issues. Three out of four of the
survey respondents who indicated that their water was undrinkable owned properties on Ricky Ridge
Road. Most issues with discolouration occurred on Rocky Ridge Road, as well as neighbouring Urquhart
Drive and Morley Avenue, and staining of plumbing fixtures and laundry was only reported on these
streets. Property owners that cited problems with discolouration and staining usually also had issues
with poor odour and taste.
Discolouration issues experienced by property owners in this specific area included:





Rust-coloured water, rust build-up
Stained fixtures, often yellow
Brownish-coloured water
Discoloured laundry, yellow or brown
Black sediment build-up
Red-brown or rust discolouration results from dissolved iron in drinking water, which often occurs
naturally with manganese (Nova Scotia Environment, 2008a). Iron and manganese can also affect the
smell and taste of the water, which are issues that many respondents indicated having. Hub Well Drilling
also mentioned the presence of iron in this area. Mudrock and sandstone, which make up a good part of
the underlying bedrock, both typically have iron concentrations of several percent (Bissell, 2016). Levels
of iron and manganese found in groundwater in Nova Scotia are not normally high enough to pose
health risks; however, they affect the aesthetic quality of the water (NSE, 2008a). Additionally, both iron
and manganese can increase the growth of unwanted bacteria. High concentrations of iron and
manganese can cause staining of plumbing fixtures or laundry. Manganese solids may form deposits in
pipes and break off as black particles, and iron can collect and block pipes, producing rust flakes in water
(NSE, 2008a).
All of these effects have been reported by survey respondents. It seems likely that the groundwater
beneath Rocky Ridge Road, Urquhart Drive and Morley Avenue has a higher concentration of iron and
16
manganese than the surrounding areas, since this area experiences more issues relating to colour and
associated odour and taste. The occurrence of black sediment and rust build-up were also solely
reported on Rocky Ridge Road. The well depths in this vicinity are general less deep than in areas with
good water quality, which may have an effect on mineral presence, although there is inadequate well
depth data to confirm the trend. The wells may also be drawing water from a different groundwater
source than other properties with better quality.
A couple of property owners in the Rocky Ridge and Morley area acknowledged that there was
hydrogen sulfide (H2S) present in their well water or that their water sometimes smelled like rotten
eggs. This distinct smell in groundwater is a clear indication of the presence of dissolved hydrogen
sulfide gas in the water. The gas can be found in both shallow and deep wells, and is often present in
areas underlain by sandstone or shale, like this study area, as indicated in section 2.0 Background &
Rationale (NSE, 2008b). Hydrogen sulfide can also cause yellow or black staining of plumbing fixtures –
another possible explanation for some of the stains experienced by property owners, since the gas and
the stains were reported in the same area. Health risks for water with an elevated concentration of
hydrogen sulfide are nausea, vomiting and stomach pain, although it is rare for a person to consume a
harmful does, since the concentration would render the odour and taste extremely unpleasant (NSE,
2008b). The presence of the gas may also signal the presence of other contaminants which may require
further investigation to confirm.
Other possible causes of discolouration are humic substances, tannin or lignin, which can cause a yellow
to brown colour in water. They are not believed to be hazardous to human health but may indicate that
other contaminants are present (NSE, 2009).
Area 3
Area 3 consists of the commercial zone on Parkway Drive and part of the Truro Heights Connector Road.
Responses from this area include only quality issues, but no shortage issues. The wells in the area are
extremely deep, which may explain this trend. Out of the seven property owners in the area that
responded, three reported water issues while four did not. The Nova Trucks property located on Truro
Heights Connector Road has water so poor that employees do not drink it. Issues that were reported in
this area include unpleasant odour year-round, dirty water from fall through spring, and naturally
occurring heavy metals in the water all the time. All three of these reports could be describing a similar
issue in varying degrees of severity, or they could be experiencing different problems. Since there are
only three properties with issues, there is not enough data to determine a trend; however, it seems
likely that the cause of the issue is solely the type of bedrock and the weathering of this rock resulting in
minerals in the groundwater. The heavy metals reported could be iron and manganese, which are found
in other parts of the study area.
The depth of the wells may also have to do with the “dirtiness” or high concentration of heavy metals in
the water. Water deep underground is under a lot of pressure and therefore moves more slowly,
allowing increased contact with the bedrock and therefore more dissolved substances.
17
Area 4
Three properties in Area 4 were mapped in approximate locations; not including those two, there were
four properties in the area with quality issues, all quite close together, and one with occasional shortage
issues. All the properties surrounding Area 4 for which responses were received had perfect water, in
both directions on Truro Heights Road and on Chantilly Lane. Therefore it is possible that these four
properties had wells dug into a different fracture in the bedrock than the surrounding properties.
Water quality issues reported from property owners in Area 4 included:






Poor water
Necessity of water filter
Smelly water despite filter
Year-round foul smell or odour
Unpleasant taste (like sewage in one case), year-round
Very high iron, all seasons.
Most issues in this area seem to persist throughout the year, and mainly have to do with odour or taste.
Since one of the property owners mentioned a very high iron content, it is possible that it is also iron
that is causing the unpleasant odours and taste. Iron in drinking water can affect the smell, taste or
colour, but it is not normally present in harmful amounts in Nova Scotia. The iron occurs naturally
through the weathering of rock. Manganese may also be present. Theses minerals could explain all
issues described above, and their presence is consistent with the bedrock types and responses from the
rest of the study area.
General
A common issue for property owners throughout the study area is hard water. Many respondents
indicated that they require water softeners to make their well water usable. Calcium and magnesium,
which are most often found together, are major contributors to water hardness; hardness is measured
in mg/L of CaCO3, calcium carbonate (NSE, 2008c; NSE 2008d). The underlying bedrock in the study area
contains dolomite, which can weather into particles of calcium and magnesium in groundwater (Naylor,
Giles, & Brisco, 2005). The effects of calcium and magnesium in drinking water are mostly aesthetic,
affecting the taste of the water and the ability of soap to lather. Well water in Nova Scotia is normally
below the concentration of CaCO3 that would pose a health risk or be unsuitable for domestic purposes
(NSE, 2008c).
In general, property owners that experienced water issues were less content with their current water
systems than those who had not experienced issues; however, responses varied greatly for respondents
that experienced similar water issues. One property owner may have neither agreed nor disagreed with
the statement while someone with an identical water issue may have agreed somewhat or strongly. This
occurred a few times in the data. There was one response that indicated that the property had no
issues, and yet the owner still disagreed strongly with the statement. This may have been due to
confusion about the direction of the scale, or perhaps another reason for being discontent with the well
water.
18
The highest proportion of respondents specified that they would like to connect to central water,
although it was not more than half of respondents. The next highest proportion of people did not want
to connect, followed by the few who were unsure. Not all respondents that wanted to connect had
water issues, and not all respondents with water issues wanted to connect. The following table shows
the breakdown of which respondents wanted or did not want to connect to central water.
Table 4. Table showing the breakdown of responses for survey Question 7, divided into categories based
on whether or not the property had any water issues.
“Would you connect your property to central water if it was available?”
Condition of well water
Yes
No
Other
Experienced some form
39
2
16
of water issue
Did not experience any
water issues
11
38
5
The greatest number of property owners who wanted to connect to central water had experienced
some form of water issue, whether it was a quality or quantity issue, and mild or severe. It can be
observed from Figure 9 that the areas with the most light blue are Area 1 and Area 2. There are many
other interested property owners scattered across the map, but it is clear that the areas with the most
water issues have the highest concentration of property owners that want to connect. This is entirely
logical, but it is not only the property owners with water issues who are interested. It may seem strange
that there are property owners who want to connect to central water even though they have perfect
water conditions; however, there seems to be a general concern in the area about the depletion of well
water due to intensification. Fire safety was also mentioned by a couple owners, since central water
would include the installation of fire hydrants.
In the survey, there was a small note indicating that connecting to central water would result in a “small
tax increase”. It is possible that this inclusion may have influenced the responses of a few property
owners who may have otherwise said they would like to connect. However, if it had not been
mentioned, more people may have expressed interest in connecting and then not followed through later
when they learned about the cost.
7.0 Limitations and Delimitations
The results of this survey are based on the responses of fifty-seven percent of the study area population;
therefore the results may not be a fully accurate representation of the entire study area.
Because of the nature of the survey and by choosing to survey property owners rather than test the
water quality, our data relies on the reporting abilities of the respondents. Each respondent would have
a different rating scale for the severity of their water condition. For example what may be considered
unpleasant water for one person may be found suitable for another, depending on their experiences
and attitudes. In order to limit the subjectivity of survey responses, most questions provided in the
survey were fact-based and required not an opinion but a statement of issues and conditions.
Respondents were not asked to evaluate the severity of their water issues; this was done by the
19
researcher when coding results. There may also be inaccuracies in results if tenants of properties have
not reported water issues to their property owners.
In the survey that was distributed, it was optional for respondents to supply their names and they
needed only indicate the street on which their property is located, not the entire civic address. Without
the specific locations of the properties referred to in the returned surveys, it was difficult to display
results geographically and to determine patterns in the results. Fortunately, many respondents chose to
include their names and/or the civic address of their property. This allowed us to map the survey results.
For responses that included only a name or only an address, the other was easily discovered using
property data for the study area and supplied by the Property Information Department. For responses
that included neither a name nor a complete civic address, guesses were made for the property’s
location based on the street name and by comparing the quality of water with others on the street and
assigning it to a property near others with similar water qualities and quantity issues. Indices such as
number of units were used as well to deduce approximate locations.
If the survey were to be repeated, I would suggest that respondents be asked to indicate the exact
address of the property in order to facilitate spatial representation and analysis of the data.
Surveys were addressed to property owners but were mailed to the addresses of the properties in the
study area. In most cases, this was not an issue since the majority of properties hosted single-unit
dwellings inhabited by the property owner and their family. In cases where the properties held rental
units, it was less likely that the survey would end up in the hands of the owner. Some surveys were
returned by Canada Post, of which a couple had been refused by residents while others had been
returned indicating an incomplete or non-existent address. When surveys were returned by Canada
Post, they were re-mailed using the actual home address of the property owners. These re-mailed
surveys all included a note inside indicating to the property owner which property the survey was to be
filled out for.
The next time, extra effort should be taken to research the addresses of all property owners for the
initial distribution of the survey. Had this been done, the response rate would likely have been higher
and there would have been less confusion for renters and lower costs for envelopes and postage.
Regarding the rating scale that was created and used to categorize the results from survey Question 4 &
5, it was difficult to make equivalent codes for quality and quantity. Therefore the combined map could
be skewed if code descriptions inherently resulted in the two not being weighted equally. Perhaps the
lowest level for quantity should have been no water to match the lowest quality level of undrinkable
water. The issue with that alternative is that there were no responses from property owners that
indicated that the property had no water. The lowest ranking for each category was determined by the
worst condition described by respondents. This means that although the condition of having
undrinkable water should perhaps have been considered worse than having frequent water shortages,
the two were considered equal for the purposes of this study. However, the potability of the water was
determined by each respondent rather than by a standard test, therefore the fact that respondents
indicated that they do not consume their water does not necessarily mean that it is unfit to drink.
20
The Municipality did not conduct actual well water tests in the study area due to time constraints,
budget and the incomplete picture that such a technical study would provide. Water tests may have
enhanced the results from the survey, if it had been feasible to conduct them alongside the survey;
however the test results would not have been comprehensive enough without the survey.
8.0 Conclusions & Moving Forward
Based on survey results, it is clear that the water quality is perceived as fairly poor throughout the study
area. Some residents have had consistent, unpleasant water quality issues that may be inconvenient and
require a bit of investment, while a few others are unable to drink their water at all. Other properties
may have reported perfect water conditions. The main causes of water quality issues in the area seem
to be high iron content and intensification, although there are others as well.
Additionally, water shortage seems to be a common issue in this area and may possibly increase in
prevalence in the future as more land is developed and if the climate becomes drier. In their responses,
property owners drew attention to the fact that both the quality and quantity of groundwater in some
areas have declined in recent years with the construction of several multi-unit buildings. Concerns that
future development may further deteriorate the water condition seem legitimate, and further research
may need to be conducted prior to the approval of forthcoming developments.
There is a great deal of variety regarding property owners’ feelings toward their current water systems.
There appear to be more property owners who are satisfied with their well water than those who are
not, but a higher proportion would consider connecting to a central water system than would not.
The Community Development Department will report the findings of their investigation to Colchester
County Council, who will in turn provide direction on how this issue should be addressed. Residents
should check this website from time to time for further updates and possible public meeting notices.
21
References
Bissell, H. J. (2016). Sedimentary rocks. In Encyclopædia Britannica online. Retrieved from
https://www.britannica.com/science/sedimentary-rock/Iron-rich-sedimentary-rocks.
Campbell Rinker. (2015). Surveys. Retrieved from http://www.campbellrinker.com/surveys.html.
Naylor, R. D., Giles, P. S., & Brisco, D. C. (2005). Geological map of the Truro Area (NTS 11E/06), Nova
Scotia [Map]. (1:50,000). Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Mineral
Resources Branch.
Nova Scotia Environment. (2008a). The drop on water: Iron and manganese [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from
https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/water/thedroponwater.TasteSmellColour.asp.
Nova Scotia Environment. (2008b). The drop on water: Hydrogen sulfide [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from
https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/water/thedroponwater.OverallWaterQuality.asp
Nova Scotia Environment. (2008c). The drop on water: Calcium and magnesium [Fact sheet]. Retrieved
from https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/water/thedroponwater.TasteSmellColour.asp.
Nova Scotia Environment. (2008d). The drop on water: Hard water [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from
https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/water/thedroponwater.OverallWaterQuality.asp
Nova Scotia Environment. (2009). Your well water 3: Understanding chemical quality [Info booklet].
Retrieved from https://www.novascotia.ca/nse/water/privatewells.your.wellwater.asp.
Palys, T., & Atchison, C. (2014). Research decisions: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods
approaches, fifth edition. Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd.
Shih, T.-H., & Fan, X. (2008). Comparing response rates from web and mail surveys: A meta-analysis.
Field Methods, 20(3), 249-271. doi: 10.1177/1525822X08317085.
Statistics Canada. (2011). Population by age and sex comparison [Table]. Retrieved May 17, 2016 by the
Municipality of the County of Colchester via PCensus.
Westlake, D. (2016). Truro Heights property information [Spreadsheet]. Truro, NS: Municipality of the
County of Colchester.
Acknowledgements
Special thanks to Paul Smith, Senior Planner, whose support, guidance and second opinions were
instrumental to the success of this project. Thanks also to Crawford MacPherson, Director of Community
Development, for his input and advice and to David Westlake, GIS Technician/Protective Services
Coordinator, for his assistance in obtaining property data and his patience during the process.
22
Appendix A – Survey
Truro Heights Well Water Survey
Please complete the survey and return it by June 17, 2016. You may return this survey using one of the
following methods:
1. Return the survey by mail using the enclosed, prepaid return envelope.
2. Scan or take a picture of your survey and email it to [email protected]
1. What is your name? (Optional) __________________________________________
2. On what street is your Truro Heights property located? _________________________________
3. Please indicate (with a checkmark) the description that best fits your property:




Your residence
Rental unit(s)
# of occupants : _____
# of units: _____
# of occupants : _____
Commercial
Other (Please indicate: ___________________________)
4. Have you or your tenants experienced any water quality issues in the last 5 years? For example,
discolorations, unpleasant taste, etc.
YES / NO
If yes, during which season(s) did these issues occur? What was the nature of these issues?
Were there any unusual circumstances surrounding these issues?
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
5. Have you or your tenants experienced any water shortage issues in the last 5 years?
YES / NO
If yes, during which season(s) did these issues occur? What was the nature of these issues?
Were there any unusual circumstances surrounding these issues?
______________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________
6. Please indicate how you feel about the following statement:
I am happy with my water system the way it is.
Disagree strongly
1
Neither agree nor disagree
2
3
Agree strongly
4
5
7. If it was available in your neighbourhood, would you connect your property to a central water
system? (This service may be accompanied by a small tax increase.)
YES / NO
23
If you have any additional comments, please feel free to write them below.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________________
Thank you for your valuable input.
Appendix B – Research on Optimal Survey Type
Optimal Survey Type for Truro Heights Water Quality Study
May 2016
There is much debate in the data collection world about whether a mail-out paper survey or a browserbased survey (such as Survey Monkey or Typeform) is more ideal. While there are advantages and
disadvantages to both types, the suitability of each survey type also depends on the format of the
survey being conducted, the demographic of the survey population, the time-frame of the study, the
budget and a number of other factors. In this brief I will discuss the pros and cons of both online and
paper surveys as well as the possibility of providing both options to respondents. Based on the
information and discussion provided below, I conclude that a mail-out survey would be the best option
for this project.
The median age of residents in the Truro Heights study area is 40.6. Although 48% of the population is
between the ages of 15-49 and would likely be fully capable of completing the survey online, there is still
a significant older population, with 35% of residents over the age of 50 and 5% over the age of 74
(Statistics Canada, 2011a). Forty-five percent of household maintainers in the study area, who would
likely be those to complete the survey, are over the age of 55, with 4% over the age of 74 (Statistics
Canada, 2011b). Older adults are generally less likely to use computers on a regular basis. Studies show
that young people and university and college students are usually more likely to respond to online
surveys, while the general population tends to prefer mail-out surveys (Shih & Fan, 2008; Ziegenfuss et
al., 2010). There are young people in the study area, but in order to appeal to the greatest number of
residents and since most household maintainers are over the age of 25, in terms of demographics it
seems most reasonable to distribute a mail-out survey (Statistics Canada, 2011b). There are, however,
are factors that need to be considered.
Mail-out surveys are a time-tested method of data collection for large population samples. In the
context of this project, mailed surveys would be sent out with an additional envelope and postage
included for their return. Since they only require paper, envelopes, photocopying and postage, mail-out
surveys are fairly economical (Palys & Atchison, 2014). They do not require computer access or skills and
are therefore accessible to almost anyone, since respondents need only find a postal box to drop it in
after completion. Mail-out surveys are considered very convenient for respondents, since they can fill
them out whenever and wherever they choose (Campbell Rinker, 2015). A downside to mail-out surveys
is that distribution and collection can take a long time due to the mailing process and respondents’
delays in returning the survey (Campbell Rinker, 2015). However, if the study time-frame is more than a
couple weeks and mail-outs are being shipped locally, this factor is of little importance. Analyzing paper
surveys can be time-consuming and tedious and is prone to human error, whereas many browser-based
24
survey programs will automatically analyze the data and provide graphs and tables (Palys & Atchison,
2014; Campbell Rinker, 2015). One source indicates that researchers can expect a response rate of 1040% for mail-out surveys, which is quite low (Palys & Atchison, 2014). However, other sources describe
studies that have had much higher response rates from mail-out surveys, especially when respondents
are sent a follow-up notice or motivated by an incentive (Gigliotti, 2011; Yammarino, Skinner & Childers,
1991). Another source states that mail surveys usually have higher response rates than internet surveys
(Shih & Fan, 2008).
Browser-based, or internet, surveys are often very similar in format to paper mail-out surveys but they
are accessed online rather than in hard-copy. Internet surveys are considered fast since there is no delay
between the time the survey is submitted by the respondent and when it can be analyzed by the
researcher (Palys & Atchison, 2014; Campbell Rinker, 2015). Many internet survey programs are free
and allow various methods of asking questions, including adaptive questioning so that questions asked
to a respondent can be selected based on their previous responses (Palys & Atchison, 2014). Questions
can even be altered by researchers part-way through the study if respondents are having a difficult time
understanding (Campbell Rinker, 2015). There is usually no cost to distribute browser-based surveys if it
is a free product and if survey links are delivered by email, except perhaps to obtain email lists.
However, for this project we would be required to distribute the survey link using regular mail, and
would therefore also require envelopes and postage. Studies show that mail-to-internet surveys have
lower response rates than email-to-internet surveys (Campbell Rinker, 2015).
Another alternative would be to distribute a mail-out survey that also includes a link to an online survey,
giving residents the choice of format they wish to use. This technique seems to make sense for a
population with a mixed demographic and would provide all respondents with a method of response
that they are comfortable with. However, although it seems as though providing more options would
lead to a higher response rate, studies have shown that the result is in fact the opposite (Ziegenfuss et
al., 2010; Friedman, Clusen & Hartzell, 2004). Respondents are less likely to reply to the survey for many
reasons, such as that they may take a while deciding which method to use and then forget about the
survey, or they may decide to do the internet survey, throwing out the mail-out in the process, and then
have trouble figuring out the online survey (Friedman, Clusen & Hartzell, 2004). These studies were from
2004 and 2010, so it is possible that by today respondents respond differently to the two options.
Because of the combined factors of the study area’s demographics and predicted response rates
associated with mail-outs, we should conduct a mail-out survey. Additionally, this project’s survey does
not require adaptive questioning or any type of question format that cannot be used on paper. The mailout will be accessible to everyone and possible for any adult to complete, and is the preferred type of
survey for the general population. Mail-out survey studies can require a longer time-frame, but that
does not seem to be a concern for this project. Additionally, the planning summer student is fully
capable of and willing to analyze results from the mail-out survey, as time-consuming and tedious as it
may be. The possible alternative to only a mail-out survey would be to combine the two survey
methods, but studies have shown that response rates are generally lower for a combined method than
for mail-outs alone.
25
Sources
Campbell Rinker. (2015). Surveys. Retrieved from http://www.campbellrinker.com/surveys.html.
Friedman, E. M., Clusen, N. A., & Hartzell, M. (2004). The net effect: A comparison of internet and mail
survey respondents. American Statistical Association section on survey research methods.
Retrieved from https://www.amstat.org/sections/srms/Proceedings/y2004/files/Jsm2004000837.pdf.
Gigliotti, L. M. (2011). Comparison of an internet versus mail survey: A case study. Human Dimensions of
Wildlife: An International Journal, 16(1), 55-62. doi: 10.1080/10871209.2011.535241.
Palys, T., & Atchison, C. (2014). Research decisions: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods
approaches, fifth edition. Toronto: Nelson Education Ltd.
Shih, T.-H., & Fan, X. (2008). Comparing response rates from web and mail surveys: A meta-analysis.
Field Methods, 20(3), 249-271. doi: 10.1177/1525822X08317085.
Statistics Canada. (2011a). Population by age and sex comparison [Table]. Retrieved May 17, 2016 by the
Municipality of the County of Colchester via PCensus.
Statistics Canada. (2011b). Household maintainers [Table]. Retrieved May 17, 2016 by the Municipality
of the County of Colchester via PCensus.
Yammarino, F. J., Skinner, S. J., & Childers, T. L. (1991). Understanding mail survey response behavior: A
meta-analysis. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 55(4), 613–639. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749409.
Ziegenfuss, J. Y., Beebe, T. J., Rey, E., Schleck, C., Locke, G. R., & Talley, N. J. (2010). Internet option in a
mail survey: More harm than good? Epidemiology, 21(4), 585–586. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/25680593.
26
27
Appendix C – Letter to Property Owners
May 30, 2016
Dear Property Owner,
The Municipality of Colchester is investigating some concerns about potential well water issues in the
Truro Heights area. Some inquiries suggest certain properties are experiencing both a shortage and / or
quality problems with on-site wells that supply water to residences and businesses.
In order to better understand the extent of this problem, the Municipality is undertaking a short survey
of property owners in your area. We encourage you to complete the enclosed questionnaire and return
it to us in the prepaid self-addressed envelope provided. Alternatively, an image of the completed
survey may be emailed to [email protected] We respectfully ask that your response to this survey
be returned by Friday, June 17, 2016.
On behalf of the Municipality of Colchester, I appreciate you taking the time to assist in this process and
once compiled, we will post the results of the survey on our website at www.colchester.ca. Should you
have any questions or comments in the meantime, please feel free to get in touch.
Sincerely,
Paul J. Smith, MCIP, LPP
Senior Planner
Appendix D – Population Density and Well Depth Maps
Please see map documents on the Colchester County website.
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