The proposed regulation would establish a new regulatory charge that would apply to water bottling facilities that take groundwater pursuant to a permit to take water issued under the Ontario Water Resources Act. The proposed charge would help finance activities and programs that the Ontario government is establishing to more effectively manage groundwater takings by water bottlers.
Subsection 75 (1.5) of the Ontario Water Resources Act provides authority for the government to establish charges to recover the costs of provincial activities and programs related to promoting the conservation, protection and management of water in Ontario and its efficient and sustainable use. Under this authority, a regulation is being proposed that would establish a charge to recover costs that the province incurs specifically to gain a better understanding of and to more effectively manage groundwater takings by water bottling facilities. This will also help increase public confidence in how the Ministry regulates groundwater takings by water bottling facilities in Ontario.
The proposed charge would apply to facilities that take groundwater for the purpose of producing bottled water that is packaged in plastic bottles or other types of portable containers and are required to have a permit under section 34.1 of the Ontario Water Resources Act (i.e., because they take more than 50,000 litres of water on any day).
The charge would not apply to water bottling facilities that obtain their water from a municipal drinking water system. Municipal drinking water systems provide treated drinking water to various water users such as residential, industrial, commercial (including water bottlers in some cases), and institutional customers. Municipalities with municipal drinking water systems have undertaken an Environmental Assessment and have permits to take water as part of the approval process for these systems.
Amount and Payment of Charge
Commencing August 1, 2017, a charge of $500 per million litres would apply to the total amount of groundwater that a water bottling facility uses in a calendar year.
Under section 9 of Ontario Regulation 387/04 – Water Taking and Transfers, permit holders are required to measure their daily water takings and submit their water taking information for the calendar year to the Ministry by March 31st of the following year. These reported water taking volumes would be used to determine the annual charge amount. If a person fails to measure and report their actual water takings to the Ministry, the charge amount would be determined based on the maximum volume of water taking that is authorized by their permit.
Where a facility also uses groundwater to produce products other than bottled water (e.g., soft drinks, beer), the charge would only apply to the amount of water used to produce bottled water. In these situations, in addition to reporting to the Ministry the total amount of water taken, facilities would be required to report to the Ministry the total volume of water used to produce bottled water, including any water used for processing, washing, and domestic purposes related to the bottling operation. If a facility fails to report the portion of water used for producing bottled water, the charge would be determined using the total volume of groundwater used.
Notice of Charge and Payments
The charge would apply annually to the amount of water a water bottling facility takes in the previous calendar year. Invoices would be issued annually before the end of the following year. Therefore, the first invoice for the proposed charge would be issued before the end of 2018 for total amount of groundwater used by a water bottling facility between August 1 and December 31, 2017.
Failure to Pay
If a person fails to pay the charge, the Director may suspend, or refuse to issue, any licence, permit, or approval under the Act to the facility until the charges and any interest owing are paid.
Periodic Review of Charge
The Ministry would review the charge and publically report (e.g., via a posting on the Environmental Registry) the findings of the review on or before December 31, 2022. Subsequent reviews would be at least every five years (i.e., next review/report on or before December 31, 2027). The purpose of the review would be to determine if the charge is set at an appropriate amount given the costs incurred by the government to manage groundwater use for water bottling and how those costs have varied, if at all, during the five-year period.
Relationship to Existing Charge Paid by Industrial and Commercial Water Users
The proposed new charge would be a separate and distinct regulatory charge from the existing water charge under Ontario Regulation 450/07 (Charges for Industrial and Commercial Water Users). Under that Regulation, highly consumptive water users (identified in the regulation as “phase 1 industrial or commercial water users”) are required to pay $3.71 per million litres of water they use annually. These are facilities that incorporate a significant portion of the water they use into their products and do not return it to the local watershed. The purpose of the charge imposed under Ontario Regulation 450/07 is to recover a portion of the costs of the province’s broader water quantity management programs. That charge will continue to apply to water bottling facilities as it does to all phase one industrial or commercial water users. The proposed new charge on water bottling facilities would be in addition to the charge imposed on them under Ontario Regulation 450/07.
Questions for Feedback:
The Ministry is looking for your input on the proposed new regulatory charge for water bottlers taking groundwater. Here are a few questions to guide your input.
1. Do you agree that the Ontario government should establish the proposed new regulatory charge to recover costs that the province incurs to better understand and more effectively manage groundwater takings by water bottling facilities? Yes or No?
2. Do you agree with the proposal to review the charge at least every five years?
3. Do you have any other comments on the proposed regulatory charge?
The proposed regulation would impose a new charge on water bottlers that take groundwater pursuant to a permit to take water in order to help finance provincial programs designed to more effectively manage such takings.
Water is vital to the health and integrity of our ecosystems and communities. Drought conditions in some areas of Ontario this year have intensified concerns related to water security in Ontario, particularly in light of projected population and economic growth and the anticipated impacts of climate change. Apprehension over future water availability has prompted a growing interest among Ontarians in the priority of different uses of water and the need to account for situations where there are readily available alternatives to the water use. Attention has been focused on the use of groundwater for water bottling, especially in communities that rely on the same groundwater source as water bottlers for their drinking water. Water bottling is unique from most other types of commercial and industrial water use, in part because almost all of the groundwater withdrawn is incorporated into the product and removed from the local watershed. As well, in many cases, there are readily available alternatives to drinking bottled groundwater such as filling a glass or refillable container with tap water.
These concerns have prompted the Ministry to establish a moratorium on the issuance of new permits, or increasing the allowable water taking under existing permits, for water bottling until January 1, 2019. Ontario Regulation 463/16 which enshrined the moratorium was made under the Ontario Water Resources Act, A decision notice of the moratorium regulation was posted on the Environmental Registry (EBR Registry Number: 012-8783). The moratorium will provide the Ministry with the opportunity to improve our understanding of the groundwater sources that are being used by water bottlers and to re-examine our current approach to managing water takings in the province, particularly the taking of groundwater to produce bottled water.
The Ministry is taking immediate action to develop and implement new operational practices that will apply to applications for renewals of permits for existing water bottling operations. Draft guidance has been developed that outlines specific procedural and technical requirements for water bottling renewal applications that are designed to increase public reporting and transparency related to the water taking, and to ensure a solid, scientific basis for making decisions on these types of renewal applications. The Ministry is currently seeking input on the proposed requirements for bottled water permit applications. The draft guidance document was posted on the Environmental Registry (EBR Registry Number: 012-9151) on December 2, 2016 for a 61-day public review and commenting period.
During the moratorium, we will also be undertaking work to advance our scientific knowledge related to groundwater sustainability and bottled water takings in Ontario. For example, in local areas of the province where bottled water extraction from groundwater exists or is anticipated to exist, the Ministry will evaluate the state of groundwater, considering potential impacts of climate change and growth, and the cumulative effects on supply and demand.
Based on the findings of this scientific work, along with jurisdictional research, input from stakeholders and the public, and engagement with Indigenous communities, we will review the rules governing groundwater takings by water bottlers in Ontario and determine whether further policy and program changes are needed.
Collectively, these efforts will contribute to enhancing water security in the province, by ensuring the wise use and management of groundwater for water bottling. There will be significant costs to these initiatives incurred by the province related to enhanced monitoring and data management tools, educational and guidance materials, staffing, supporting engagement with stakeholders, as well as building capacity of Indigenous communities to engage on policy and science–related activities. The proposed charge on facilities that take groundwater to produce bottled water will ensure that the users who are creating the need for and commercially benefitting from the government’s actions to improve the management of bottled water takings from groundwater are paying their share of the costs. A review of the charge is proposed every five years to ensure that the charge remains aligned with program costs.
Subsection 75 (1.5) of the Ontario Water Resources Act provides authority for the government to establish charges to recover the costs of provincial activities and programs related to promoting the conservation, protection and management of water in Ontario and its efficient and sustainable use. Under this authority, a regulation is being proposed that would establish a charge to recover costs that the province incurs specifically to gain a better understanding of and to more effectively manage groundwater takings by water bottling facilities. This will help increase public confidence in how groundwater is managed in Ontario.
While a key focus of our efforts to enhance water management in Ontario is on groundwater use for water bottling, we recognize the need to also take a broader look at the rules governing water takings in Ontario to ensure that they are adequate to protect and conserve ground and surface water in the province for future generations. In particular, we need to account for the cumulative effect of water takings on our watersheds and how the supply and demand for water will be affected by climate change and growth pressures. We plan to review elements of the regulatory and policy framework related to “high use watersheds” and the rules that apply to water takings in those areas. The review will also examine the need to prioritize water uses in order to guide future water management decisions when water sources may be stressed.
It is recognized that First Nations and Métis peoples and Ontario share a common interest in protecting, conserving and managing the water that flows in our lakes, rivers and streams, as well as, the water that lies in aquifers below. As such, all of these initiatives will be undertaken through engagement with Indigenous communities, stakeholders and the public.
Where programs or portions of programs relate to managing water quantity more broadly and water takings by a range of sectors, their costs would not be recovered through the proposed new charge. These activities are not attributable exclusively to water bottlers and would not be paid for through this type of new charge. Instead, these broader program costs could be partly recovered through the existing charge for industrial and commercial water use under Ontario Regulation 450/07, or paid for by general revenues of the Government of Ontario.
This proposal was posted for a 61 day public review and comment period starting January 18, 2017. Comments were to be received by March 20, 2017.
All comments received during the comment period are being considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry.
Please Note: All comments and submissions received have become part of the public record.
Other Public Consultation Opportunities:
This proposal has been posted for a 61-day public review and comment period starting January 18, 2017. If you have any questions, or would like to submit your comments, please do so by March 20, 2017 to the individual listed under "Government Contact" or on-line.
All comments received prior to March 20, 2017 will be considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change if they are submitted in writing or electronically using the form provided in this notice and reference EBR Registry number 012-9574.
Please Note: All comments and submissions received will become part of the public record. You will not receive a formal response to your comment; however, relevant comments received as part of the public participation process for this proposal will be considered by the decision maker for this proposal.
Comment Period: 61 days
Government Contact: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Climate Change and Environmental Policy Division
Land and Water Policy Branch
40 St. Clair Avenue West
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