Updating Ontario's Water Quantity Management Framework
Regulation - LGIC
Bill or Act:
Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990, Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990
Summary of Decision:
Enhancements to Ontario's water taking program
The Ontario government is moving forward with enhancements to the province's water taking program as part of its Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commitment to ensure our water resources are protected and used sustainably, now and for future generations.
After many years of public consultations 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 as we continue to ensure we are prepared to adapt to changing circumstances.
These changes 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 users 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;
making water taking data available to the public to increase transparency of how Ontario manages water resources.
The amendments to O. Reg. 387/04 and O. Reg. 63/16 were filed on March 31, 2021 and come into effect on April 1, 2021, to coincide with the expiry of the bottled water moratorium.
Analysis of Regulatory Impact:
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 expected to impact people, businesses and communities in Ontario 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 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, focussing 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 amendments include a requirement for water bottling companies to report whether they have support from the host municipality when applying for a permit 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.
June 18, 2020
Summary of Proposal:
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.
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 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 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:
Indigenous partners and communities
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.
April 1, 2021