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
Decision
Decision 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

Decision summary

We are moving forward with guidance to help enhance the management of water takings in areas where quantity is a concern and where there are competing demands for water. We are also revoking the interim guidance on water bottling renewals at the same time that the enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program will be put in place on April 1, 2021.

Decision details

New Implementation Guidance

From December 7, 2020 to February 5, 2021, we consulted on a proposal on the Environmental Registry to seek feedback on:

  • draft guidance to help the ministry and permitted water takers implement enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program; and
  • revoking 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.

This new guidance is intended to help water permit holders understand the new rules and to assist in the implementation of the new regulatory enhancements to the Water Taking and Transfer regulation to:

  • manage water takings in areas where water sustainability is a concern; and
  • establish provincial priorities of water use to guide decisions where there are competing demands for water.

The new enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program will enable the ministry to assess and manage water resources and the impact of multiple water users, as well as more effectively guide management actions in areas experiencing water quantity stress.

Revoking the interim guidance for bottled water renewals

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

We have since conducted a thorough review of the province’s water taking policies, programs, and science tools. We also asked 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; and
  • water takings for bottling are managed sustainably under existing legislation, regulations, and guidance.

Based on the findings of the review, and our regulatory changes to Ontario’s water taking program, we are confident that bottled water takings can be managed effectively under the enhanced framework.

Decision on the proposal

After considering all of the comments we received on our proposal, we have decided to move forward with:

  • finalizing guidance that would support the implementation of updates to the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04) under the Ontario Water Resources Act to enable area-based water quantity management and priorities of water use policies; and
  • revoking the “Interim Procedural and Technical Guidance Document for Bottled Water Renewals: Permit to Take Water Applications and Hydrogeological Study Requirements”.

This guidance, which supports the implementation of the enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program, will take effect on April 1, 2021, aligned with enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program taking effect and the end of the bottled water moratorium. With these enhancements in place, the interim bottled water guidance will also no longer apply effective April 1, 2021.

Related proposal postings

After many years of public engagement and an extensive review of the province’s water taking policies, programs and science tools, we have finalized enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program to ensure we are prepared to adapt to changing circumstances.

These enhancements include:

  • establishing priorities of water use in the province that can guide the ministry’s water taking decisions on how water should be shared among permitted water takers when there are competing demands for water;
  • replacing high use watershed policies with a more flexible and practical area-based approach to assessing and managing multiple water takings together in areas of the province where water sustainability is a concern; and
  • making water taking data available to the public to increase transparency of how Ontario manages water resources.

For more information on the regulatory enhancements to establish priorities of water use, to replace high use watershed policies, and to make water taking data more accessible, please view the Decision Notice posted on the Environmental Registry ERO# 019-1340

The legislature also passed amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act in December 2020 to require water bottling companies to have the support of their local host municipality for a new or increased groundwater taking in their community. The amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act have been proclaimed and come into effect on April 1, 2021. For more details, please view the Decision Notice posted on the Environmental Registry ERO# 019-2422

Comments received

Through the registry

53

By email

778

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

What we heard

We received comments from Indigenous communities as well as from a wide range of interested stakeholders, including members of the public, conservation authorities, municipalities, source protection committees, professional societies and associations, environmental non-governmental organizations, the agricultural industry, and the bottled water industry.

Comments on the implementation of guidance

The majority of the comments support updating Ontario’s water quantity management framework and moving forward with the implementation of guidance. Below is a summary of the main themes heard during the engagement period:

  • support for the provision of guidance on the implementation of area-based strategies and priority of use policies
  • desire for clarification on the criteria and mechanisms for selecting areas for an area-based strategy
  • recommendations that area-based water quantity strategies be based on scientific evidence and available hydrogeological information and align with other provincial and local policies
  • desire for engagement throughout and early in the strategy development process, including directly notifying water users and affected stakeholders and communities of the intent to develop area-based strategies
  • requests for additional clarification on how water users within the same category will be addressed in areas where they conflict

Comments on revoking the interim guidance

We also received comments about revoking the “Interim Procedural and Technical Guidance Document for Bottled Water Renewals: Permit to Take Water Applications and Hydrogeological Study Requirements.” Below is a summary of the main themes heard during the engagement period:

  • support for reflecting the findings of the independent, third-party review of the government’s findings on bottled water takings in the province’s treatment of water users
  • concerns about revoking certain requirements for water bottlers found in the interim guidance, including five-year permit terms, longer posting periods on the Environmental Registry of Ontario for permit applications, and mandatory reductions in water takings during drought conditions

For comments regarding the ministry’s proposal to require water bottling companies to have the support of their local host municipality for a new or increased groundwater taking in their community, please view the Decision Notice posted on the Environmental Registry ERO# 019-2422

Response

All of the comments received during the Environmental Registry posting, as well as comments received during our engagement meetings were considered. In response to input received through our engagement, we clarified the implementation guidance with respect to:

  • when an area-based approach may be used to manage water takings in a water quantity stressed area
  • the importance of engagement throughout area-based strategy development, including direct notification to water users, Indigenous communities and organizations, municipalities, and others of intent to develop a strategy and seek input on a draft strategy
  • how area-based strategies align with other provincial and local water management programs, including drinking water source protection
  • the consideration of the drinking water portion of water uses and certain essential water uses that must be maintained to protect health and safety (e.g., food safety) and maintain food security in the province (e.g., continuing processing of locally grown products) regardless of the priority level of a particular user

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Naomi Herold

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Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks - Environmental Policy Branch
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40 St Clair Avenue West
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Toronto, ON
M4V1M2
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Original proposal

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
Proposal posted

Comment period

December 7, 2020 - February 5, 2021 (60 days)

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

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Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from December 7, 2020
to February 5, 2021

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