Square Bay resident disappointed by water quantity management program enhancements

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SPRING BAY – While pleased that Ontario is updating its water quantity management framework, a Square Bay resident is upset that this would only apply to bottled water.

In a letter to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Mike Wilton wrote, “I was very pleased to learn that Ontario is updating Ontario’s Water Quantity Management Framework.”

“I was equally displeased upon learning that this would only apply to bottled water,” wrote Mr. Wilton. “While this aspect is most certainly of great importance to the whole picture, it will leave many equally important aspects undealt with. For instance, the complete protection of headwaters, all headwaters, not just source waters, is of critical importance if future generations are to experience undiminished stream flow, which is the basis of all water flowages in this province.”

Mr. Wilton wrote that, “the province is sadly lacking in concern regarding water quantity in the Great Lakes Basin, leaving water quantity management solely within the jurisdiction of the US Army Corps of Engineers. How can that be of benefit to Ontario?” 

“There is presently no way to discuss water quantity under the umbrella of the International Joint Commission, as that body consider only matters concerning ‘water quality’,” he continued.

“Further, how can we adequately discuss water quantity when we are ignorant of the amount of water stored beneath the rapidly diminishing permafrost?” wrote Mr. Wilton. “These are just a few of the exceptions relevant to the incomplete nature of this study, which should be either renamed, or (preferably) broadened in scope, to truly reflect the actual situation regarding Ontario’s water quantity.”

Mr. Wilton’s comments were in response to the Ontario government seeking public input on its water quantity management proposal. The proposal aims to protect the long-term sustainability of surface water and groundwater and ensure these important resources are responsibly managed and safeguarded now and into the future, as committed in the province’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. The proposal would also give municipalities a greater say in allowing companies to withdraw ground water in their communities for bottled water.

“We can’t take our water for granted-—it is a vital resource for our health and well-being, and to the way of life we all enjoy,” said Jeff Yurek, minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, in a release. “Ontarians can be confident our water resources are protected by good policy based on solid science and evidence, but we must always be prepared to adapt. Based on initial input from our stakeholders and Indigenous communities, we have put forward proposed enhancements to our water taking rules that will create a more flexible and robust program.” 

The proposed changes include: requiring water bottling companies to have the support of their host municipalities for new and increasing bottled water takings, with an exemption for small businesses; establishing priorities of water use in the province that can guide water taking decisions; assessing and managing multiple water takings together in areas of the province where water sustainability is a concern; and making water taking data available to the public to increase transparency of how Ontario manages water resources.

The government encourages the public to provide their feedback on the water quantity management proposal, which is open for public comment on the Environmental Registry until August 2, 2020. These comments will help inform the updates to further protect water resources in Ontario.