Ground Water Canada

Features Research Water Quality
Cross-Canada update

What’s new with water issues, programs and regulations countrywide.

January 10, 2013  By Treena Hein

In this issue, we will explore what’s happening in Western Canada,
Ontario and Quebec. The Maritimes and the North will be covered in our
spring edition.

In this issue, we will explore what’s happening in Western Canada, Ontario and Quebec. The Maritimes and the North will be covered in our spring edition.

British Columbia
The British Columbia Ground Water Association (BCGWA) and the BC Water & Waste Association are reviewing the recently released Version 1 of the Guidance Document for Determining Ground Water at Risk of Containing Pathogens. One or more technical workshops will be provided for appropriate industry members.


The BCGWA also reports that Ministry of Environment (MOE) officials have recently been checking the compliance status of drillers and pump installers with regard to their Continuing Education Units. Both the MOE and the BCGWA are trying to clarify whether there are any non-compliance issues, in co-operation with the Canadian Ground Water Association.

The provincial health officer released the 2011 Progress Report on the Action Plan for Safe Drinking Water, outlining progress and highlighting areas for improvement. The report covers programs between 2007 and 2009, when officers conducted more than 4,800 water system inspections and government provided $935,000 to assist in over 100 planning projects. The report highlights progress made on the province’s drinking water quality goals set out in the Action Plan for Safe Drinking Water. For example, more permits for water system operation were sought and more water system emergency response plans were filed. Drinking water teams were established in each of the regional health authorities to ensure co-ordination across ministries, and the Water Action Plan for B.C. was finalized.

Challenges that need further work include better data collection and reporting at the regional and provincial levels. In addition, some smaller communities need to access available grants to create adequate drinking water infrastructure.

In 2008, the government of Alberta released the Water for Life action plan, which is a 10-year roadmap for the government and other stakeholders. A report covering December 2008 to March 2011 is now available, outlining the activities, programs, and tools being pursued under the plan’s Water for Life Strategy. This document is a renewed look at how water-related actions have been honed to better reflect how population increases and economic growth have changed the water needs of all Albertans. The strategy, however, does not attempt to list every activity, as the goal of managing and protecting water is made up of a large number of small projects and many initiatives.

October 2012 saw the release of the 25 Year Saskatchewan Water Security Plan, along with the creation of a Water Security Agency. This agency brings together, for the first time, all of government’s core water management responsibilities and technical expertise to ensure a comprehensive and integrated approach to water management. Agency personnel will lead the implementation of the plan and report annually on progress made on its seven goals, which include drinking water safety, protection of water resources, flood and drought damage reduction and effective governance and engagement.

The province is also implementing a new regulatory model for managing activities that have an impact on the environment in order to balance environmental protection with the province’s growing economy. “The results-based regulatory (RBR) model represents a significant shift away from prescriptive legislation and regulations toward holding proponents accountable for achieving desired environmental outcomes,” says Thon Phommavong, head of the code Secretariat with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment. “At the heart of RBR is the Saskatchewan Environmental Code, [which] will contain legally binding requirements that allow environmental protection to proceed as a normal business process.” Where appropriate, some operators will be able to proceed with a project by registering it without needing to wait for approval or permits.

The first draft of the code was developed with input from more than 200 representatives from companies, associations, government agencies, municipalities, First Nations and Métis communities, academia and the general public. “The draft has just gone through a public review period involving more than 1,300 people representing a wide range of interests,” says Phommavong.

In March 2012, the province began seeking the public’s input on the new Groundwater and Water Well Act: Conservation and Water Stewardship. The Manitoba Water Well Association and the Manitoba Geothermal Energy Alliance are among those providing amendment input, in areas such as:

  • licensing and certification of well and geothermal drillers
  • driller responsibility and liability insurance requirements that will protect landowners
  • better management and protection of ground water including new reporting requirements and designation of sensitive areas, protection protocols for water wells in flood-prone areas and a new process for aquifer management planning
  • stronger water well drilling, construction and sealing standards
  • establishment of a ground water and water well database
  • stronger compliance and enforcement measures.

In May, Ontario strengthened regulation of vertical closed-loop drilling for geothermal energy systems. Geothermal installers must now obtain provincial approval for vertical closed-loop systems, consult with a certified geoscientist or engineer before drilling and develop an emergency plan before drilling. The Ministry of the Environment consulted with industry stakeholders on the new regulations over the summer and conducted inspections to ensure installers are meeting safety standards.

In June, the Ontario Minister of the Environment and the Manitoba Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship urged the federal government to defer the scheduled closing of the Experimental Lakes Area and to explore the possibility of a new operating regime for this study zone. In July 2012, Ontario also launched the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund, which provides grants to community groups for grassroots activities such as cleaning up a shoreline, restoring a wetland, or creating a riverside trail.

A draft regulation that relates to water withdrawals and water protection was released in Quebec in late 2011, and has been subject to public consultation this year. It essentially carries forward the requirements that have been in place since 2002 under the Groundwater Catchment Regulation. The draft lists the types of withdrawals that will be subject to the new authorization requirement introduced with the Quebec Strategy for Drinking Water Conservation Act. With regard to applications for surface water withdrawals, for example, municipalities are now required to report any risks to their drinking water sources. The draft also presents the terms and conditions for issuing new or renewing existing withdrawal authorizations and the period of validity of such authorizations.

The Quebec government has also announced a number of measures to better protect drinking water resources. Public consultations on these measures are complete and recommendations are being made to the minister.

Don’t miss part two of this Canadian regulation roundup. We’ll be reporting on the Maritimes and our northern territories.

Treena Hein is a science writer based in Ontario.

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