Ground Water Canada

Features Mapping Research
Ground water symposium considers how to structure, pay for mapping, monitoring


May 29, 2015
By Ground Water Canada

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May 29, 2015, Toronto – Thursday's lively symposium at the University of
Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs Program On Water Issues
considered how best to organize and finance mapping and monitoring of
Canada's
ground water and also what a co-ordinated national plan might look like.

May 29, 2015, Toronto – Thursday's lively symposium at the
University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs Program On Water Issues
considered how best to organize and finance mapping and monitoring of Canada's
ground water and also what a co-ordinated national plan might look like.

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Security Underground: Financing Groundwater Mapping and
Monitoring in Canada, a half-day event that was accessible over the Internet
through live streaming, focused on three recent policy works: a poll on
Canadian attitudes toward ground water protection, a paper on management of
ground water and a paper on financing mapping and monitoring of the resource.

 

Nik Nanos presented the results of his company's poll
exploring Canadian attitudes toward the protection of Canada's ground water.
"Canadians’ views on groundwater issues and policies" found that,
while Canadians see water as important, they fail to understand or appreciate
the importance of this resource to our environment, health, and economy. Water
has a high level of importance because it has a “high level of proximity” to
everyday Canadian lives, said Nanos, but to engage people, you have to tap into
what ground water means to them.

 

Ralph Pentland, president of Ralbet Enterprises Inc. and
prime author of the 1987 Federal Water Policy, summarized his paper
"Destined to Fail? Groundwater Management in Canada." Among other
issues, the paper explores how the concepts of "social licence"
(community acceptance of a project or activity) and "agency capture"
(the overly close alignment of government with the demands of private industry)
may influence ground water policy.

 

His paper grapples with how to overcome the
environment-economy stalemate created when developments that affect ground
water happen without being granted social licence by the public. To break the
log jam, he argued, we need access to information, public participation in
decision making and access to justice. The current approach is destined to fail
if we don't develop what he calls "a healthier environmental
democracy."

 

Pentland proposed convening a group to explore issues and
develop model legal provisions for consideration by provincial governments to
develop a new policy. 


A panel picked up on various aspects of the paper's
argument. Panellists were Bruce Pardy, professor, Faculty of Law, Queen's
University; Owen Saunders, senior fellow, Canadian Institute of Resources Law
Faculty of Law, University of Calgary; Hon. Ian Binnie, former Supreme Court
justice and currently counsel for Lenczer Slaght; and Randy Christensen, staff
lawyer for Ecojustice Canada.

 

Saunders said his initial reaction to the paper was to
question the focus on ground water, given that it is difficult to discuss it
independently of surface water, which already has a number of policies that
could be a framework. However, he said, ultimately, because ground water is
largely unknown and unseen, a discussion of ground water is more likely to lead
to dialogue on wider water issues. He also noted that "we can’t assume
there will be 'widespread buy-in' from the public, making the choice of topics
and framing of topics crucial. 

 

David McLaughlin, strategic advisor on sustainability to the
dean of environment at the University of Waterloo, and formerly president and
CEO of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, presented
key points from his paper "Security Underground: Financing Groundwater
Mapping and Monitoring in Canada." Although there is quite a bit of
mapping and monitoring of ground water happening, he said, it is uneven,
"spotty" and in need of a stronger funding model – possibly a hybrid
of public and private financing. Barriers to financing include lack of
priority, funding, visibility, integration and value.

 

We have three options, he suggested: treat ground water as a
form of "public trust to ensure full financing, treat it as an economic
benefit and create a water royalty system, or treat it as an environmental
heritage and thus develop a combination of public and private financing with a
broad-based or localized ground water environmental surcharge.

 

He concluded that provincial and federal resources,
including funding, directed toward stewardship are "woefully
inadequate" and that a new approach would not only improve knowledge and
management of ground water but also "shift the attitude we have exhibited
to date on the importance of groundwater to our lives and livelihoods."

 

Following McLaughlin's talk, there was reaction from a
second panel that included Harry Swain (in absentia), associate fellow, Centre
for Global Studies, University of Victoria; Eric Hodgins, manager of
hydrogeology and source water, Regional Municipality of Waterloo, in Ontario;
John CHallinor, director of corporate affairs, Nestle Waters Canada; Wayne
Dybvig, president, Saskkatchewan Water Security Agency; and Lorne Taylor,
chair, Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency
(AEMERA).

 

Dybvig suggested the Prairie Provinces Water Board, which
uses a risk-assessment approach to define aquifers, has a plan in draft form
that could provide a model for how to consider the aquifers most at risk rather
than try to identify all aquifers immediately. That plan involves reporting
need, learning through mapping, drilling and monitoring, triggers and
objectives for management, he said.

 

The webcast is available on the POWI website.

 

Download the full text of the three papers.