Ontario Will Review Water Taking Rules and Proposes a Related Moratorium

The Ontario Government responds to growing interest in the priority of uses and users of water.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) indicated that it will review Ontario's existing water taking requirements to determine if they are adequate to protect and conserve water for future generations. The MOECC also indicated that it will examine a range of pricing mechanisms and will undertake additional research to improve the understanding of ground water in Ontario.

While this work is occurring, the MOECC has proposed establishing a province-wide moratorium on the issuance of permits authorizing new or increased ground water taking for water bottling until January 1, 2019. In addition, the MOECC has proposed a moratorium on the issuance of new permits to take ground water for pumping tests aimed at determining the feasibility of new or increased bottled water production. This moratorium would be implemented by – and would be effective on – the filing of the proposed Taking Ground Water to Produce Bottled Water regulation. It is currently subject to public review and comment on Ontario's Environmental Registry until December 1, 2016. The MOECC anticipates that the regulation will be filed by the end of 2016.

What You Need To Know

  • According to the MOECC, drought conditions over the past summer and projected population growth have "intensified concerns related to water security in Ontario".1 The MOECC has identified growing public interest in the priority of uses and users of water under Ontario's current water management framework, as well as the public's expression of "significant concern" regarding the MOECC's ability to monitor and regulate water bottling operations.

  • In response to these interests, the MOECC has indicated that it will re-examine its current approach to the management of water takings in the province. During the review and proposed moratorium Ontario plans to undertake a number of interrelated initiatives, including:

    • Research regarding existing ground water supplies and how those supplies may respond to the impacts of population growth, climate change, and increased demand for various water uses.

    • An examination of water pricing and other tools that could be used to conserve and protect water.

    • Public consultations on the prioritization of water uses to guide future policies on management actions when water sources are stressed.

  • The MOECC plans to conduct these initiatives in consultation with stakeholders, the public, and Indigenous communities. The MOECC also plans to seek input on the priorities of water users and potential policy approaches to furthering ground water protection in the province. Currently, stakeholders and members of the public may submit their comments regarding the review and proposed moratorium through the Environmental Registry until December 1, 2016.

  • As an immediate step, the MOECC has indicated that it will implement new operational practices when considering permit renewal applications for existing water bottling facilities, including:

    • requiring scientific studies (as necessary) to justify proposed water takings;

    • limiting permit renewals to a maximum of five years (as opposed to ten years); and

    • imposing rules for mandatory reductions in water taking during times of drought.

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1 "Regulation Proposal Notice – A regulation establishing a moratorium on the issuance of new or increasing permits to take water for water bottling" 17 October 2016 (online): https://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTMwMjU1&statusId=MTk3NDM4&language=en.

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