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December 01, 2004

New Water Taking / Source Protection Initiatives

INDUSTRIES, MUNICIPALITIES SHOULD START PLANNING NOW

The Ontario Government released two important water initiatives on December 14, 2004. First, a new water taking regulation comes into force on January 1, 2005, replacing the one-year moratorium on water taking. Second, Minister of the Environment Dombrowsky released recommendations from the Expert Advisory Committees on drinking-water source protection.

The new water taking restrictions have immediate impact. The source protection recommendations will be implemented over the coming years. However, industries, developers and municipalities need to begin planning now for the potential impacts of tighter land use controls, and restrictions on water discharges, air emissions, plus storage and handling of chemicals, fuels and hazardous substances.

WATER TAKING REGULATION

The Water Taking and Transfer Regulation (O. Reg. 387/04) will require applicants for permits to take water to conduct a more rigorous assessment of the impact on the environment, including analysis of water balance. Some uses in "high use" watersheds will be capped - new permits or expansions will be refused. Municipalities and conservation authorities will be notified of permit applications. All permit holders will have to report on the quantity taken annually. Reporting will be phased in, with large municipal and residential drinking water systems and MISA regulated plants reporting in 2006.

SOURCE PROTECTION COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS RELEASED

The Government is committed to source protection. We expect that the Government will implement most of the recommendations of the two Expert Committees. The source protection planning regime will use a risk-based threat assessment approach to identify vulnerable rinking water sources. Wellheads, intake zones and other vulnerable areas will be classified as significant, moderate or low risks. Protection measures will be imposed according to level of risk. The Implementation Committee report also recommends tools and financial mechanisms for protecting drinking water sources, and managing risks. The 60 day consulting period ends February 14, 2005.