Waterkeeper has participated in the Great Lakes water-taking dialogues for years, offering comments at different stages of the Agreement consultation process and participating in advisory panel meetings with the Government of Ontario. Waterkeeper also published a primer on water-takings in Ontario called, Taking Waters from the Great Lakes: a citizen's guide to the policies, rules and procedures that protect Ontario's waterways.
According to the relevant EBR Registry document, there are eleven key components of the proposed amendments to the OWRA:
1. Adding new definitions. 2. Moving a purpose clause from the Regulation to the Legislation. 3. Introducing a reference to the Agreements. 4. Prohibiting Inter-Basin transfers (with a few exceptions) 5. â€œProhibitingâ€ Intra-Basin transfers 6. Describing the exceptions to the Intra-Basin transfer prohibition 7. Introducing the Exception Standard from the Agreements 8. Giving Quebec and the 8 Great Lakes states standing to seek judicial review 9. Adding regulation-making authority 10. â€œModernizingâ€ the permit to take water program 11. Rescinding the Water Transfer Control Act, which was never proclaimed into law
The actual text of the proposed amendments does not accompany the EBR Registry document.
The sixth component is of the greatest concern to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper: the exceptions to the Intra-Basin transfer prohibition. Indeed, it should be of great concern to every individual, organization, or government agency who participated in the consultation process preceding the signing of the Great Lakes â€” St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (â€œAgreementâ€).
The final Agreement between Ontario and the eight Great Lakes States generally prohibits Inter-Basin and Intra-Basin diversions, but allow each under specific circumstances. Before the Agreement becomes binding in Ontario, it must be incorporated into provincial legislation.
Now that it is time to draft provincial legislation, it appears as though Ontario is opting for a potentially weaker, less protective set of rules. The province will prohibit Inter-Basin diversions; that is, taking water out of the Great Lakes for use in a different watershed. But it will not prohibit Intra-Basin diversions; that is, taking water from one Great Lake for use in a different Great Lake's watershed.
On August 29, 2005, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources the following comment on Intra-Basin diversions:
Ontario should also agree to ban Intra-Basin diversions (i.e, transfers of water from one Great Lake to another, such as from Lake Huron to Lake Erie). Ontario has the potential to emerge as the Great Lakes' biggest champion of Intra-Basin transfers: four of the Great Lakes are within the province's jurisdiction, and demand for new drinking water sources is growing as groundwater supplies are shrinking and/or becoming contaminated. Ontario must agree to ban Intra-Basin diversions if it is to fulfill its commitment to protecting natural source water supplies in every community across the province.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper holds fast to the position that we have not come close to completing the scientific research that will help every Great Lakes government make informed choices for the future. We stand by our position that diversions threaten water quantity and water quality in the Great Lakes in ways that we cannot yet predict. We are incredibly disappointed that Ontario would choose to allow Intra-Basin diversions.
You can view a pdf version of our official submission here.