We, the undersigned environmental and citizens’ groups, believe the proposed Clean Water Act is essential for the long-term health of our communities and our environment. The following are our recommendations on how the Act should be made even stronger, to ensure the best possible protection for our sources of drinking water.
1. Adoption of the precautionary principle. Despite numerous recommendations advocating the inclusion of the precautionary principle, there is not a single reference to precaution in the proposed Act. The precautionary principle should be inserted in the purpose statement as a guiding principle. It should also be included in the administration of the Act, for example, as an operationalized component of the source protection plans.
2. Meaningful involvement of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples. We strongly believe that First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples and their governments have a critical role to play in the source water protection framework. In its current form, the Act does not include provisions related to drinking water systems on reserves, nor does it in any way include First Nations peoples in the source protection process.
We continue to stress that the federal and provincial governments should support the ability of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples to be full participants in source protection planning and implementation, in addition to allocating appropriate resources to facilitate meaningful involvement.
3. Extensive and ongoing public participation and education. Planning and implementation of each source protection plan will occur mostly at the local level, through measures carried out by individual landowners, industries, and businesses. It is critical that we build public support through education and outreach programs as well as through public engagement in the planning and implementation process.
Public education must include easy access to information in order to identify threats to source waters and participate in risk management responses. At a minimum, meaningful engagement requires the public’s involvement on source protection committees, financial support for participation outside of the committees, and the opportunity to comment on proposed terms of reference, assessment reports, and source protection plans before these documents are finalized.
4. Sustainable funding for the program’s implementation. It is essential that there be a sustainable and reliable approach to securing funds for the implementation of source protection plans. The province should consider all of the funding mechanisms identified in the Implementation Committee’s report, including water taking charges, water rates, pollution charges, incentive programs, general revenues, and stewardship approaches. Furthermore, the funding system should allow for the equitable reallocation of funds and reaffirm the principle that water is a public resource.
5. Equal source water protection for central and northern Ontario and for private water systems. The Act does not yet achieve sufficient protection for all of Ontario’s source waters, as Justice O’Connor recommended in Part II of his report. In its current form, the Act is weighted towards protection of municipal drinking water systems in southern Ontario. We strongly recommend that the right to source water protection be extended to people who rely on private water systems and water systems in central and northern Ontario.
6. Incorporation of strong conservation measures and water quantity protection. It is important that this Act work effectively to protect both water quality and quantity. To that end, it should promote the adoption of water conservation measures and prevent the depletion of our water resources. For example, groundwater aquifers could be better preserved by setting clear guidelines limiting the spread of impervious surfaces in key recharge areas. Also, when preparing water budgets for the assessment reports, source protection committees should take into account water conservation plans as a means of avoiding water shortages.
7. Strong commitments to the Great Lakes and integration with Great Lakes agreements. Given the critical importance of the Great Lakes as a source of drinking water, it is essential that the province use this Act as a starting point for renewed leadership in Great Lakes protection. We believe that the Act should include strong commitments to protecting the Great Lakes. Furthermore, source protection measures should be effectively integrated with existing Great Lakes programs, data collection, and inter-jurisdictional agreements, including the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Annex 2001 agreements.
Canadian Environmental Law Association
Concerned Walkerton Citizens
Canadian Federation of University Women Ontario Council
Georgian Bay Association Waterfront Regeneration Trust
Sierra Legal Defence Fund
Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods of Ontario
Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy
Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations
Friends of the Earth Canada
Riversides Stewardship Alliance
Ontario Headwaters Institute
Sierra Club of Canada, Ontario Chapter
Citizens’ Environmental Alliance