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The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (“MOECC”) has posted a draft regulation to the Environmental Registry proposing to establish a moratorium on the issuance of new or increasing permits to take water for the purposes of water bottling. We previously blogged about the water taking controversy in the Township of Centre Wellington.

The regulation proposes to prohibit a person from using groundwater for the purposes of manufacturing bottled water or manufacturing water as a product that is sold in other types of portable containers. The proposed regulation also prohibits the Director from issuing permits to take water for pumping tests, where the objective of the test is to provide data on the feasibility of the water source for future new or expanding water bottling operations. Any increases in the amounts of groundwater that a water bottling groundwater facility is permitted to take is also prohibited by the regulation. In addition, any renewals of existing permits would be subject to new stringent rules and restricted to the same or a lesser amount of groundwater from the same location.

The regulation only applies to water bottling facilities requiring a permit to take water and does not apply to those facilities obtaining water from a municipal drinking water system. Water bottling facilities relying on municipal drinking water do not require a permit since they do not take water directly from a ground or surface water source.

The MOECC is proposing the new regulatory requirements recognizing that water is a vital resource that without appropriate protection our water resources are at risk of becoming a non-renewable resources. Water is vital to the health and integrity of our ecosystems and communities. Drought conditions, increases in population, increasing water needs, and anticipated impacts of climate change has drawn attention to the importance of our water security, particularly in communities relying on groundwater resources.

The new regulation recognizes that manufacturers of bottled spring or mineral water incorporate most of the groundwater taken under a permit to take water into their products. This results in very little water being returned to the watershed from which it was taken.

The posting is for a 45-day public review and comment period starting on October 17th, 2016 and ending on December 1, 2016 (EBR Registry number 012 8783).

During the moratorium the Ministry is proposing to: examine water pricing and other tools that can be used to protect and conserve water; review water taking rules to determine if the rules adequately protect and conserve water for future generations; and undertake research to improve understanding of groundwater in Ontario, including consideration of how future climate change and population growth may impact groundwater supplies.

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