The public comment period on Ontario's proposed amendments to the Ontario Water Resources Act ends today. The amendments are supposed to make law Ontario's promise to protect Great Lakes waters in this province. They come on the heels of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (â€œAgreementâ€) signed by Ontario and the eight Great Lakes States in 2005. The Agreement sets out who gets to take water out of the Great Lakes, when, for what purpose, and under what conditions.
The Agreement prohibits taking water out of the Great Lakes Basin for use in other regions (with a few exceptions). It also prohibits taking water from one Great Lake for use in another Great Lake (â€œIntra-Basin transfersâ€), unless the water is eventually returned.
Ontario's proposed rules contain one surprise: they allow the diversion of water from one Great Lake to another Great Lake. This kind of large-scale diversion is exactly what the Agreement was originally intended to prevent. While the final Agreement was the product of significant compromise between the nine parties, Ontario had the freedom to create domestic rules as protective as it desired.
Instead, the Province of Ontario is choosing rules that are riddled with loopholes, undefined terms, and exceptions to the prohibition on water diversions â€“ exactly the kind of concession that environmentalists and scientists most feared.
During the negotiation process, Waterkeeper expressed concerns that Ontario could become the biggest proponent of Intra-Basin transfers on the Great Lakes: 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.
Of all the parties to the Agreement, Ontario has the fewest incentives to conserve municipal water supplies or to protect drinking water quality. There's always another Great Lake. We can always build a bigger pipe.
For these reasons, Waterkeeper recommended that the province show good faith and ban Intra-Basin diversions. Instead, after signing the Agreements with the eight Great Lakes states, the province is quietly ushering in a set of provincial rules that may be less protective than its original commitments. And because of our geography and our political reach, Ontario may emerge as one of the greatest threats to Great Lakes water.
This is not the way for Ontario to fulfill its commitments to the eight Great Lakes States â€¦ or to our own communities.
See our comment on our web site: Here.