Proposal to require municipal support for new or increased bottled water takings

ERO number
019-2422
Notice type
Act
Act
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Decision Updated
Decision posted
Comment period
October 6, 2020 - November 20, 2020 (45 days) Closed
Last updated

Update Announcement

We have updated this decision notice to let you know that the amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) (the new section 34.0.1) will come into effect on April 1, 2021, along with the other proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program (amendments to the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (O. Reg 387/04) under the OWRA and Ontario Regulation 63/16, Environmental Activity Sector Registry – Water Taking, under the Environmental Protection Act). The April 1, 2021 date coincides with the expiry date of the bottled water moratorium. No other changes have been made to the decision notice originally published on December 18, 2020. For more details on the other enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program, as well as the implementation guidance, we added links to the two decision notices in the Supporting Materials section of this notice.

March 31, 2021

This consultation was open from:
October 6, 2020
to November 20, 2020

Decision summary

We are moving forward with changes to the Ontario Water Resources Act to require water bottling companies to have the support of their local host municipality for a new or increased groundwater taking in their community.

Decision 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.

As the next step in our work to protect water resources in Ontario, we are moving forward with changes to the Ontario Water Resources Act that will give host municipalities more direct input on allowing bottled water companies to withdraw new or increased amounts of groundwater in their communities.

This new requirement is part of a series of proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program. Giving municipalities more direct input on new or increased bottled water takings will help further protect water resources in Ontario by ensuring that local communities also have a say in water bottling permits.

On December 8, 2020, the Ontario Legislature passed the Better for Business, Smarter for People Act, 2020, which included amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act.

The amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act establish the following requirements:

  • before a water bottling company applies for a permit to take water from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the company would be required to seek a municipal council resolution from the local host municipality either supporting or objecting to the proposed water taking
  • the requirement would apply to a company intending to apply for a permit for a new groundwater taking or to increase the amount they are authorized to take under an existing permit
  • the requirement only applies to cumulative water takings within the local host municipality above 379,000 litres per day
  • the local host municipality is the lower or single tier municipality where the proposed water taking is located
  • municipalities would be required to provide a council resolution within 12 months from the date the company makes a request. A resolution supporting a water taking would be valid for five years

The amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act will come into effect upon proclamation, anticipated to be at the same time that the bottled water moratorium ends on April 1, 2021.

Comments received

Through the registry

68

By email

402

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

What we heard

We received comments from:

  • municipalities
  • water bottling industry
  • environmental non-government organizations
  • conservation authorities
  • Indigenous communities and organizations
  • professional associations
  • members of the public

We received a total of 470 comments, including 81 comments from individuals and organizations. The remaining 389 were attributed to a letter writing campaign.

The majority of the public and stakeholder comments generally support giving host municipalities more input into water bottling decisions.

Comments were received that were not supportive of the exemptions for cumulative takings within the local host municipality of less than 379,000 litres per day and for pumping tests, including suggestions that the proposed threshold for municipal support be lowered to 50,000 litres per day.

Comments were also received that advocated for the municipal support requirement to be expanded to include other affected municipalities, not just the host municipality. Some Indigenous communities expressed that the requirement for support should extend to affected Indigenous communities to allow them to have the same level of input as municipalities.

Comments from the beverage and water bottling industry were not supportive of changes, commenting that it unfairly singled out the water bottling industry.

Response

We considered all of the comments received during the Environmental Registry posting, as well as comments and presentations made to the Standing Committee on General Government in the final decision.

As part of the decision, we also considered that even with a support resolution from the host municipality, companies would still be required to meet any requirements or conditions that the ministry might have in deciding whether to issue the permit to take water. This includes procedural steps companies are expected to take in meeting the Crown’s duty to consult Indigenous communities about decisions or actions that might adversely impact Aboriginal or treaty rights.

As a result we have made a decision to proceed with the amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act, consistent with the proposal.

Supporting materials

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

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Original proposal

ERO number
019-2422
Notice type
Act
Act
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Proposal posted

Comment period

October 6, 2020 - November 20, 2020 (45 days)

Proposal details

We are proposing changes to the Ontario Water Resources Act that would give local host municipalities more direct input on allowing bottled water companies to withdraw new or increased amounts of groundwater in their communities.

Giving municipalities more direct input on new or increased bottled water takings will help further protect water resources in Ontario by ensuring that local communities also have a say in water bottling permits.

In June 2020, we proposed enhancements to Ontario’s water taking program, including a new requirement for water bottling companies to have the support of their local host municipality for a new or increased bottled water taking. More information on the proposed enhancements can be viewed on ERO# 019-1340. The comment period closed on August 2, 2020.

From our engagement on the proposed enhancements to our water taking program, we heard that many stakeholders would support giving municipalities more direct input on decisions to allow bottled water takings in their communities.

Municipal council resolution

Before a water bottling company applies for a permit to take water from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, the company would be required to seek a municipal council resolution from the local host municipality either supporting or objecting to the proposed water taking. The local host municipality is the lower or single tier municipality where the proposed water taking is located. The requirement would apply to a company intending to apply for a permit for a new ground water taking or to increase the amount they are authorized to take under an existing permit.

With a municipal council resolution supporting the proposed water taking, the company would be able to proceed with its application for a permit. The application would undergo the technical review by the ministry to determine whether a permit will be issued. As part of the review, the ministry would continue to post the application on the Environmental Registry for public comment and notify affected municipalities and conservation authorities of the application. The ministry would also continue to carry out its obligations associated with meeting the Crown’s duty to consult Indigenous communities on the proposed water taking.

A municipal council resolution supporting a proposed water taking would be valid for five years. If the company does not apply for a permit within that period, it would have to obtain a new municipal council resolution from the local host municipal council before applying.

If the local host municipal council initially supports the proposed water taking but subsequently passes a municipal council resolution withdrawing its support for the proposed water taking, the application would still be allowed to proceed. In reviewing the application, the ministry may take into account the local host municipality’s withdrawal of support, where any specific concerns raised with the proposed taking relate to the criteria that the ministry considers when evaluating permit applications that are outlined in section 4(2) of the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04).

If the local host municipal council objects to the proposed water taking, an application for a permit to take water would not be able to proceed. If a subsequent municipal council resolution is passed withdrawing the objection to the proposed taking, the application would be able to proceed for review by the ministry.

If the local host municipal council does not pass a resolution in support of or objecting to the proposed water taking within 12 months of receiving the request from the water bottling company, an application for a permit to take water would be able to proceed for review by the ministry.

Other proposal details

Even with a support resolution from the host municipality, companies would still be required to meet any requirements or conditions that the ministry might have in deciding whether to issue the permit to take water. This includes procedural steps companies are expected to take in meeting the Crown’s duty to consult Indigenous communities about decisions or actions that might adversely impact Aboriginal or treaty rights.

The proposed requirement to have the support of the local host municipality for a proposed bottled water taking would only apply to companies whose total maximum permitted daily water takings for all amounts (currently permitted and proposed) within the local host municipality is greater than 379,000 litres. For example:

  • a company proposing a new water taking of 500,000 litres per day in the local host municipality would trigger the requirement, or
  • a company with an existing permitted water taking of 250,000 litres per day that is proposing a second water taking of 150,000 litres per day in the same local host municipality would also trigger the requirement because the combined permitted takings within the local host municipality, if approved, would be 400,000 litres per day

A water bottling company proposing to take a total of less than 379,000 litres of water per day would not be required to obtain a council resolution from the local host municipality in order to make an application for a permit.

The requirement would also not apply to a water bottling company:

  • that needs to renew an existing permit to take water for the same or lower permitted volume, the same purpose and the same location of water taking
  • that needs to replace an existing water source (e.g., well), authorized under an existing permit to take water for the same or lower permitted volume, the same purpose, and the same location
  • that needs to make an administrative change to a permit (e.g., name change, change of facility or company ownership)
  • that requires a short-term permit to conduct a pumping test
  • that gets its water from a municipal water supply 
  • that is proposing a water taking within an unorganized territory (i.e., an area with no local host municipality)

For more details on the proposal, please refer to the draft amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act (Bill 213, Better For People, Smarter For Business Act, 2020) via the link in the supporting materials section of this proposal notice.

Timing

We are proposing to have the amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act come into effect on April 1, 2021 or earlier.

Related water taking postings on the Environmental Registry of Ontario

We are currently consulting on two other proposals related to the province’s permit to take water program on the Environmental Registry of Ontario:

  • proposing to expand the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) regulation (Ontario Regulation 63/16) for low-risk, short-term water taking activities such as water pumping tests and certain construction dewatering activities, and to amend the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04) to update exemptions for low-risk water taking activities. You can find more information or submit a comment here (ERO# 019-2525). The comment period closes on November 20, 2020
  • proposing amendments to the Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (Ontario Regulation 387/04) that would exempt dams from requiring a permit to take water, with the exception of dams for mine tailings and dam construction projects that involve groundwater dewatering. You can find more information or submit a comment here (ERO# 019-2517). The comment period closes on November 20, 2020

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.

This consultation was open from October 6, 2020
to November 20, 2020

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