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Great Lakes Article:

New rules to protect Ontario's water
The Globe and Mail
Published December 14th, 2004


Toronto — The Ontario government has imposed tough new rules on those who take water from the ground and is taking stronger measures to protect watershed-based sources, Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky announced Tuesday.

The regulatory overhaul lifts a one-year water-taking moratorium on Dec. 31 and implements more stringent reviews of water-taking permits, Ms. Dombrowsky said in a release.

“We have a responsibility to make sure Ontario's lakes, streams and aquifers are protected now and for future generations,” she said. “We want to prevent problems, not react to them.”

Under the rules, new or expanded water removal from high-use watersheds will no longer be allowed as of Jan. 1.

The changes follow two committee reports, one technical and one on implementation, that identify key threats to watersheds across the province.

The reports make more than 250 recommendations and provide the government with detailed direction as it prepares comprehensive legislation to protect drinking water, expected next spring. They also provide guidance to the government on how to put in place recommendations stemming from the judicial inquiry into the tainted-water tragedy in Walkerton, Ont., in May 2000.

“Our government will ensure that for the first time Ontario has a comprehensive, science-based program to protect all our water resources including the Great Lakes, the source of drinking water for most Ontarians.”

The reports recommend new controls on activities around wells and drinking water intakes to protect against contamination. They also call for regional watershed authorities to establish so-called source-protection boards, which would set up committees to develop protection plans.

Communities will be urged to identify potential water-source threats, such as gas stations or farms, and ensure that there is no pathway for contaminants to travel to the water.

It is estimated that the cost of developing protection plans over the next five years could reach $240-million.

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