Ontario Strengthens the Protection of Water ResourcesPublished on March 31, 2021
Changes to water taking program ensuring sustainability of surface and groundwater
TORONTO — The Ontario government is strengthening the protection of vital water resources with changes to the province's water taking program. The changes include new rules that give municipalities more direct input on allowing bottled water companies to withdraw new or increased amounts of groundwater in their communities. To support the new changes, the province is also providing new guidance on managing water taking in areas where sustainability is a concern and where there are competing demands. This is a key commitment of the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.
"After many years of public engagement and an extensive review of the province's water taking policies, programs and science tools, we are taking steps to further protect this precious resource," said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. "With these new rules and guidance in place, people can be confident that these valuable water resources in the province are protected by strong policies and managed sustainably for future generations to come."
The new changes to Ontario's water taking program include:
- Giving municipalities more say on whether water bottling companies can use groundwater in their areas. Even with support from the host municipality, companies will still be required to apply to the ministry for a permit to take water and meet any requirements or conditions if the ministry issues a permit.
- Establishing priorities on how water should be shared among water users when there are competing demands for water. For example, restrictions on water taking could be applied during a drought.
- Putting in place a new, more flexible approach for the ministry and water users to better assess and manage multiple water takings in areas where water sustainability is a concern.
- Making water taking data available to the public to increase transparency of how Ontario manages water resources.
The new rules apply to all permitted water users, including water bottlers, and will come into effect when the current bottled water moratorium ends on April 1, 2021. The moratorium on permits to take groundwater to produce bottled water was put place in 2016 so the government could review its water taking management framework and propose enhancements.
- The government engaged with stakeholders and Indigenous communities on its proposed enhancements to its water taking program, including supporting guidance, between June 2020, and February 2021.
- In December 2020, the province brought forward changes that come into effect on April 1, 2021, requiring water bottling companies to have the support of their local host municipality for new or increased groundwater taking in their community.
- To ensure Ontario’s review of water taking resources was comprehensive, the ministry retained an expert water resources consulting firm, BluMetric Environmental Inc., to assess water resources in select areas of the province.
- The ministry’s findings on water bottling were independently validated by a panel from Professional Geoscientists Ontario.
- In Ontario, water bottling companies are charged an additional $500 per million litres of groundwater taken to produce bottled water.
- Water bottling is significantly less than one per cent of the total permitted water taken in Ontario.
- Lakes and rivers in Ontario, including the Great Lakes, contain about one fifth of the world’s surface fresh water.
- Ontario’s drinking water continues to be among the best protected in the world.