Ontario Construction News staff writer
The Ontario government is seeking public input on its water quantity management proposal. The proposal aims to protect the long-term sustainability of surface water and groundwater and ensure resources are responsibly managed and safeguarded, as detailed in the province’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.
The proposal would also give municipalities a greater say in allowing companies to withdraw groundwater in their communities for bottled water.
“We can’t take our water for granted – it is a vital resource for our health and well-being, and to the way of life we all enjoy,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Ontarians can be confident our water resources are protected by good policy based on solid science and evidence, but we must always be prepared to adapt.
“Based on initial input from our stakeholders and Indigenous communities, we have put forward proposed enhancements to our water taking rules that will create a more flexible and robust program.”
Yurek summed up the goals of the proposal as giving host municipalities more say, prioritizing drinking water, updating how water takings are managed where water sustainability is a concern and making data more accessible.
The proposed changes include:
- Requiring water bottling companies to have the support of their host municipalities for new and increasing bottled water takings, with an exemption for small businesses.
- Establishing priorities of water use in the province that can guide water taking decisions.
- Assessing and managing multiple water takings together in areas of the province where water sustainability is a concern.
- Making water taking data available to the public to increase transparency of how Ontario manages water resources.
Ontario’s review of water taking resources was comprehensive, the ministry retained an expert water resources consulting firm, BluMetric Environmental Inc., to assess water resources in select areas of the province. The ministry’s findings on water bottling were independently validated by a panel from Professional Geoscientists Ontario.
Feedback on the water quantity management proposal can be provided until Aug. 2, 2020.
The review of water resources in Ontario, found that the current approach to managing water takings is effective. The review also identified opportunities to build on our current framework to ensure that we can manage water takings sustainably in situations when water supplies may be limited.
In December 2019, the province extended the moratorium on new or expanded groundwater takings by water bottling companies to Oct. 1, 2020.
In Ontario, water bottling companies are charged an additional $500 per million litres of groundwater taken to produce bottled water.