In December 2005, Ontario Premier McGuinty, Quebec Premier Charest, and the governors of the eight U.S. Great Lakes states signed the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement. It is a good faith agreement committing the provinces and states that share the Great Lakes to pass laws to better protect and conserve the surface water and groundwater resources of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin. The Agreement was negotiated in response to shared concerns about proposals for large diversions and bulk exports of Basin water, increasing water demand in the Basin and the uncertain effects of climate change on the supply and demand for Great Lakes water into the future.
To implement the Agreement in Ontario, the Safeguarding and Sustaining Ontario’s Water Act was passed in June 2007. It amended the Ontario Water Resources Act to enable key commitments of the Agreement to be met, including regulating intra-basin transfers and developing a water conservation and efficiency strategy for the province. The Safeguarding and Sustaining Ontario’s Water Act also provided the authority for the province to charge commercial and industrial water takers for the water they use. Phase 1 of the water charges program, affecting ‘high consumptive’ industrial and commercial water users (e.g., beverage manufacturers), was introduced in August 2007 through Ontario Regulation 450/07.