Proposed Implementation of Updates to Ontario’s Water Quantity Management Framework

ERO number
019-2017
Notice type
Policy
Act
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal
Proposal posted
Comment period
December 7, 2020 - February 5, 2021 (60 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:

December 7, 2020
to February 5, 2021

Proposal summary

We’re seeking input on draft guidance to help manage water taking in areas where water quantity is a concern and where there are competing demands for water. We are also proposing to revoke the interim guidance once updates to Ontario’s water taking program are in place, aligned with the end of the bottled water moratorium on April 1, 2021.

Proposal details

Ontarians can be confident that water resources in the province are protected by strong policies as we continue to ensure we are prepared to adapt to changing circumstances.

To further ensure water resources in Ontario are protected and used sustainably, in June 2020 we proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program. These enhancements included:

  • requiring water bottling companies to have the support of their host municipalities for new and increasing bottled water takings
  • 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

More information on the proposed enhancements, the results of the ministry’s water quantity management review, and the assessments completed by independent experts as part of the review, can be viewed on the Environmental Registry (ERO#: 019-1340 - Updating Ontario’s Water Quantity Management Framework).

As the next step in our work to protect water resources in Ontario, we are seeking input on:

  1. Draft guidance to help the ministry and water users implement the proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program (see "DRAFT Water Quantity Management Implementation Guidance" under supporting materials).
  2. A proposal to remove the province’s interim bottled water guidance, which was implemented in 2017 as a temporary measure for renewals of existing bottled water permits during the moratorium for new and increasing bottled water takings.

Proposal for implementation guidance

While the ministry already has the authority to issue, cancel, amend, or impose conditions on permits, the ministry has recently proposed regulatory changes to Ontario’s water taking program that are intended to provide greater transparency for ministry decisions that may affect permitted water takers in areas under stress with competing demands for water. A draft of these proposed regulatory changes to the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04) under the Ontario Water Resources Act is attached to this proposal for reference.

The proposed guidance would support implementation of the recently proposed updates to the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04) to enable area-based water quantity management and priorities of water use.

The proposed guidance to support implementing area-based water quantity management outlines how:

  • the ministry would determine when an area-based approach is needed
  • a strategy for assessing and managing water takings in such an area will be developed

This proposed guidance would:

  • help water users and the ministry implement the proposal and enable the ministry to assess and manage water resources and the impact of multiple water users to more effectively guide management actions in areas experiencing water quantity stress
  • apply to permitted water takers while also providing broader benefits by promoting the sustainability of water resources and water security for all water users in an area

The proposed guidance to support the implementation for priorities of water use explains:

  • what uses are considered a priority over others under the regulation
  • provides direction on when and how the priorities may be applied

This proposed guidance would help water users and the ministry implement the proposal that sets out priorities of water use that would be taken into account when considering whether to renew, cancel, or amend existing permits in situations where there are competing demands for water among established users that cannot be resolved through other means.

Proposal to revoke the interim guidance for bottled water renewals

A temporary moratorium has been in place since December 2016 on new or increased permits to take groundwater to produce bottled water through the Taking Ground Water to Produce Bottled Water Regulation (Ontario Regulation 463/16) under the Ontario Water Resources Act. The moratorium prohibits:

  • new or increased groundwater takings for water bottling facilities if they take more than 50,000 litres of water in a day
  • pumping tests, where the purpose of the test is to determine the viability of a groundwater source for water bottling

In September 2020, the government extended the moratorium for up to six months until April 1, 2021 to provide time to further consult on and implement proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program.

In April 2017, the “Interim Procedural and Technical Guidance Document for Bottled Water Renewals: Permit to Take Water Applications and Hydrogeological Study Requirements” was put in place to outline the ministry’s technical and procedural requirements for renewals of existing water bottling permits. You can view information on the interim guidance on the Environmental Registry (ERO#: 012-9151 - Bottled Water Technical Guidance Document).

Last fall, we conducted a thorough review of the province’s water taking policies, programs, and science tools. This also gave us time to ask an independent third-party to review our findings so that we could be sure we got it right.

The independent third-party review confirmed that:

  • bottled water takings in Ontario are not impacting the sustainability of groundwater resources
  • water takings for bottling are managed sustainably under existing legislation, regulations, and guidance

Based on the findings of the review, and our proposed regulatory changes to Ontario’s water taking program, we are confident that bottled water takings can be managed effectively under the enhanced framework. We are proposing to align implementation of the proposed enhancements to the water taking program with the end of the bottled water moratorium on April 1, 2021. Once these enhancements are in place, we are proposing that the interim bottled water guidance would no longer apply.

Going forward, applications for new or increased bottled water takings could resume, subject to the proposed requirement to have municipal support for the new or increased water taking prior to making an application. Proposed bottled water takings would need to go through the ministry’s rigorous permit to take water application process, as well as adhere to the proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program, including proposed changes to the Ontario Water Resources Act that would give municipalities more direct input on allowing bottled water companies to withdraw new or increased amounts of groundwater in their communities. This proposal can be found on the Environmental Registry (ERO#: 019-2422 - Proposal to require municipal support for new or increased bottled water takings). The Permit to Take Water Director would still apply terms and conditions that are specific to the proposed water taking and site considerations, as appropriate. This includes not issuing a permit if current science standards indicate that the proposed taking may adversely impact existing users or the environment.

With the removal of the interim guidance, several requirements for bottled water renewal applications would change to align with the existing framework for all permitted takers. These changes would include:

  • posting renewal applications on the Environmental Registry of Ontario for 30 days instead of 90 days
  • issuing permits for up to a maximum of 10 years instead of five years, at the discretion of the Permit to Take Water Director on a case-by-case basis
  • no longer requiring bottled water permit holders to create and maintain a website to post their water taking records. Instead, public transparency on groundwater takings for bottled water would be maintained through the proposed regulatory change to allow the ministry to make the water taking data of all permitted water takers available to the public, as outlined in the proposal paper for updating Ontario’s water quantity management framework
  • no longer requiring a Drought and Cumulative Effects Water Quantity Risk Assessment for all applications for water bottling; we have proposed updates to the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation, supported by implementation guidance, that would enable the ministry to assess and manage multiple water takings together in areas of the province where water sustainability is a concern
  • providing notice and consultation with Indigenous communities, led by the ministry instead of delegated to the proponent
  • removing the mandatory reductions in water takings during drought conditions for bottled water permit holders; the Permit to Take Water Director would retain the authority under the Ontario Water Resources Act to order decreases in water takings at any time

The Permit to Take Water Director would retain the authority to apply additional permit conditions and requirements for permit renewal applications at their discretion on a case-by-case basis.

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.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from December 7, 2020
to February 5, 2021

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