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Great Lakes Article:

City may face bill for water
London Free Press
12/19/03


London and other municipalities that draw water from the Great Lakes may have to begin paying for it, a former city treasurer warns. "That's a possibility," Nigel Bellchamber said yesterday.

Bellchamber is co-chair-person of a committee announced yesterday that will advise the government early in the new year on how charges for water should be applied.

London and other area municipalities do not pay for water they draw from lakes Erie and Huron.

The situation is the same for companies that extract water directly from the ground, rivers and lakes.

But much study of the option of making municipalities pay a royalty for water lies ahead, Bellchamber said.

In the meantime, the province is imposing a year-long moratorium on issuing new or expanded permits to withdraw water, Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky said.

"The days of taking water away for free are over," she said yesterday, warning companies that extract water for commercial purposes such as bottlers and makers of ready-mix concrete will have to pay a royalty for the resource.

The moratorium applies to beverage manufacturing, including water bottlers, fruit or vegetable canning or pickling, ready-mix concrete manufacturing and manufacturing in which more than 50,000 litres of water are used daily.

The moratoriumdoes not apply to water taken for agriculture, aquaculture, nurseries, tree farms, sod farms or water taken for municipal purposes.

The moratorium does not apply to water taken for agriculture, aquaculture, nurseries, tree farms, sod farms or water taken for municipal purposes.

Existing permit holders can continue to draw water, but the maximum amount will be frozen.

The Environment Ministry, which has been criticized for losing track of thousands of permits to take water in recent years, says protection of water supplies is paramount.

The new Liberal government has vowed to implement findings from the inquiry into the contamination of water in Walkerton in 2000 that claimed seven lives and made 2,500 ill. In his report on the tragedy, Associate Chief Justice Dennis O'Connor recommended tighter controls on permits as an integral part of protecting sources of drinking water in the province.

Dombrowsky said water bottlers and others who remove water from a watershed "cannot be permitted to just take more and more water. We need to fully understand the consequences of takings on both the watershed and local water supplies."

Bellchamber, co-chairperson of the 21-member implementation committee looking into who will pay what and to whom for water, was appointed for his expertise in municipal finance and knowledge of relevant agencies such as conservation authorities.

"We have a lot of homework ahead of us," he said, noting his group will have to review an earlier report on water supplies and O'Connor's recommendations from the Walkerton inquiry. The committee will look at ways to implement source protection plans and funding mechanisms and incentives.

Bellchamber said although the province is free to slap a fee on those who extract water at any time, he expects it to wait until his committee has completed its deliberations and submitted its report. That could take several months, he predicted.


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