The Ontario government is making changes to the province’s water taking program. The changes will include new rules that will 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.
“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.