Updating Ontario’s Water Quantity Management Framework

ERO number
Notice type
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal posted
Comment period
June 18, 2020 - August 2, 2020 (45 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:

June 18, 2020
to August 2, 2020

Proposal summary

We are proposing regulatory changes for managing water takings to protect the long-term sustainability of surface water and groundwater and to ensure these important resources are responsibly managed and safeguarded now and for future generations.

Proposal details

Our government is committed to taking action through our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to protect lakes, waterways and groundwater supply in Ontario, now and for future generations.

Last fall, we extended the moratorium for new and increasing bottled water takings so that we could complete a thorough review of the province's water taking programs, policies and science tools. This review, which includes assessments done by independent experts, found that the government's current approach to managing water takings is effective.

The review:

  • determined that bottled water takings in Ontario are not impacting the sustainability of groundwater resources and that groundwater takings for bottling are managed sustainably in the province under existing legislation, regulation and guidance
  • identified opportunities to build on our current framework to ensure our water resources are protected and used sustainably in the face of a changing climate and population growth

The ministry also retained a third-party water expert, BluMetric Environmental Inc., to:

  • assess water resources in select areas of the province
  • review aspects of the ministry’s water quantity management framework

BluMetric’s findings, as well as the ministry’s own review, have informed the development of four key areas for action. The ministry’s findings, which included BluMetric’s analysis, on water bottling were independently validated by a panel from the Professional Geoscientists Ontario. Their report, along with a summary of BluMetric’s findings, can be found in the supporting materials section of this Proposal Notice.

Four key areas for action

The attached proposal paper outlines four key areas for action:

  1. Establish clear provincial priorities of water use to guide decisions where there are competing demands for water.
  2. Update our approach to managing water takings in water quantity-stressed areas.
  3. Make water taking data, including data the ministry collects from permitted water takers, more accessible to the public.
  4. Give host municipalities more input into water bottling decisions.

To enable these actions, we are proposing regulatory amendments to:

  • the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04) under the Ontario Water Resources Act, 1990 to enable all four proposed areas of action
  • the Environmental Activity Sector Registry (EASR) - Water Taking Regulation (Ontario Regulation 63/16) under the Environmental Protection Act, 1990 to enable action three (making water taking data more accessible to the public)

The proposal paper also includes:

  • a summary of conclusions from the review
  • questions to better inform our proposed changes

We are seeking feedback on these proposed actions from:

  • the public
  • Indigenous partners and communities
  • municipalities
  • industries
  • stakeholders

Your input will help the province move forward with updating Ontario’s water quantity management framework to help protect and sustain water resources in Ontario now and into the future.

Regulatory impact statement

With these proposed changes, Ontarians can have the added confidence that the ministry's programs, policies and science protect vital water resources and ensure we have sustainable water resources now and into the future. While the proposed regulatory changes are not expected to have a direct negative economic impact on most water takers, the proposal includes enabling regulatory provisions that may impact some water takings in water quantity-stressed areas or large new or increasing water bottling takings.

The proposed regulatory changes and complementary activities are enabling provisions that are expected to ​benefit people, households, businesses and communities in Ontario including rural, urban, northern and Indigenous communities, in a number of ways:

  • protecting the sustainability of water resources to support ​healthy ecosystems and the economic and social well-being of Ontarians
  • providing greater transparency about how water takings will be managed in periods of scarcity, to allow businesses, farms and rural and urban municipalities to better plan for the future
  • removing the regulatory burden associated with current static regulatory high-use watershed maps and policies and updating our approach to managing water takings in water-quantity stressed areas, focusing actions in priority areas to allow resources to be directed where they are needed most
  • facilitating the use of water taking data to support water quantity management decision making and promote water security in the province
  • giving host municipalities more input into water bottling decisions before proposed new or expanded water takings for water bottling are considered in their jurisdiction

While the proposed amendment includes a requirement for water bottling companies to report whether they have support from the host municipality when applying for a Permit to Take Water for a new water taking or increased amount of water, an exception is proposed for smaller groundwater takings by water bottling companies that are below a limit of 379,000 litres per day in total within a municipality.

The proposed enhancements are not expected to have a negative impact on businesses. They are intended to be used only as needed and to add more flexible and adaptive water management tools and policies to Ontario’s water taking framework.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.


Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from June 18, 2020
to August 2, 2020

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