Personal liability for water treatment plants in effect in Ontario

Via Canadian Consulting Engineer, 2013-01-07

New rules came into effect in Ontario on December 31 that make those with decision-making authority over drinking water systems personally liable for their safe operation.

This “Statutory Standard of Care” came into force as Section 19, part of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The decision-making authorities — which include municipal councillors as well as their third-party contractors — have to ensure that their plant is operated in accordance with regulations, is appropriately staffed and supervised, and that it meets all the sampling, testing and reporting requirements.

In a guide for municipal councillors: “Taking Care of Your Drinking Water,” the Ontario Ministry of the Environment points out that municipal councillors are still personally liable for their water systems, “even if there is an agreement to delegate the operations of the drinking water system to someone else” (page 7).

The guide points out that those with decision-making authority over municipal drinking water systems have “to exercise the level of care, diligence and skill … that a reasonably prudent person would be expected to exercise in a similar situation and that they exercise this due diligence honestly, competently and with integrity.”

The guide says the legal responsibility applies to not only the municipality who owns the system, but “every person who oversees the accredited operating authority or exercises decision-making authority over the system — potentially including but not limited to members of municipal councils. If the municipal system is owned by a corporation rather than a municipality, every officer and director of the corporation has the legal responsibility to ensure the plant is performing up to par.

The Ministry is advising municipal councillors to “be informed, ask questions, get answers.” Training courses for municipal officers are available at the Walkerton Clean Water Centre.

To see the guide, click here.


The Polis Project: Four big trends emerging in global water governance


Global water governance trends show move away from private ownership

Jeremy Osborn for The Guardian, Monday 10 December 2012


Flooding Old Malton pub

More crises, such as the recent floods in the UK, are one of four big trends emerging in global water governance today says the Polis Water Project. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Throughout history, the most successful civilisations have been those that have managed their water well. These “hydraulic societies” span the cradle of civilisation in Mesopotamia through to modernity. The success of modern civilisation is, in many key ways, dependant on our ability to become a global version of the hydraulic society.

But what does an emerging global hydraulic society look like?

Broadly, it means a move away from private ownership, and towards more innovative forms of collaborative governance and resource sharing, but Oliver M Brandes of the Polis Water Project says there are four big trends emerging in global water governance today:

More hands on the steering wheel: around the world, water management is an increasingly localised process, with decision-making happening between a broad variety of public and private stakeholders at the local watershed level. This puts business in direct negotiation not only with governments, but with a wide range of public stakeholders.

More rights for nature: more jurisdictions are using policy to safeguard large portions of their water supply for natural processes. This will continue to create a form of conscious scarcity, where the ability of industry to leave zero or net positive operational impact on water supplies will be critical to maintaining social license to operate.

More water in public trust: increasingly, water cannot be owned, even by governments. Courts in many jurisdictions are citing centuries of common law, which show water as a common asset. This is ending the era of unbounded decision-making on water rights by individual interests, including government. Global water governance is moving towards multi-party, consensus driven decision-making processes, where business is a single voice among many, and where access to, not ownership of, water resources, is becoming the new normal.

More crises: governance changes tend to come rapidly and unexpectedly in response to crises –such as the Australian drought or the UK’s flooding. This can be challenging for companies, because crises are hard to predict, and also because climate change is significantly increasing the number of crises that occur each year. Because of this, companies need to be positioned in advance for rapid and unexpected changes in governance and regulatory practices.

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Saskatchewan aims to protect water from source to tap with 25-year plan

via: The Canadian Press
Published Monday, Oct. 15, 2012

The Saskatchewan government has outlined a 25-year plan that it says will protect water supplies from the source to the tap.

The 25 Year Saskatchewan Water Security Plan has seven goals:

  • Sustainable Supplies
  • Safe Drinking Water
  • Protection of Water Resources
  • Safe Dams
  • Flood and Drought Damage Reduction
  • Adequate Data, Information and Knowledge
  • Effective Governance and Engagement

The Vision Statement of the Plan,”Water supporting economic growth, quality of life and environmental well-being” is supported by the following principles:

Long-Term Perspective: Water management decisions will be undertaken within the context of a 25-year time horizon.

Water for Future Generations: A sustainable approach to water use will protect the quality and quantity of water now and for the future.

Integrated Approach to Management: Water decisions will integrate the multiple objectives and information pertaining to the economic development, ecological, hydrological, human health, and social aspects of water, considering circumstances and needs that may be unique to a watershed or region, to achieve a balanced outcome.

Partnerships and Participation: The provincial government will facilitate collaboration in the development and implementation of water management decisions.

Shared Responsibility: All residents, communities and levels of government share responsibility for the wise use and management of water.

Value of Water: Water is essential to life and will be treated as a finite resource that is used efficiently and effectively to best reflect its economic, social, and environmental importance.

Continuous Improvement: Water management will be adaptive and supported by sound monitoring, risk assessment, evaluation, research, innovation, and best practices.

The province says conservation is critical and could be achieved through pricing strategies.

But the plan adds that new reservoirs, pipelines and canals may also be necessary to meet demand.

Water demand is highest in the southern part of the province because of industrial development such as potash mines.

Other goals include ensuring dams meet water supply and management needs safely and making sure measures are in place to respond to floods or drought.

“We want to ensure there is a sustainable water supply available to support our growth, a healthy environment and our quality of life,” Ken Cheveldayoff, minister responsible for the new Water Security Agency, said Monday.

Saskatchewan’s new Water Security Agency will report annually on how the plan is working.


Corporate water disclosure guidelines launched by UN

Via: GLOBE-Net, August 30, 2012

‘Water should be more highly valued to reflect its worth and reduce its waste.’

Those words by Paul Bulcke, chief executive officer at Nestle SA (NESN), the world’s biggest food company, at a World Water Week seminar in Stockholm this week, reflect growing corporate awareness of the importance of water to business survival.
‘If something isn’t given a value, people tend to waste it,’ Bulcke said . ‘Water is our most useful resource but those using it often don’t even cover the costs of its infrastructure.’
To give greater awareness of the importance of water, the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate initiative released its Corporate Water Disclosure Guidelines – the first ever common approach to corporate water disclosure.

The release of the Guidelines took place at the CEO Water Mandate’s ninth working conference during World Water Week in Stockholm.

The UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate initiative also announced the launch of a global Water Action Hub – the world’s first on-line platform to unite companies, governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders on a range of critical water projects in specific river basins around the planet.
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Guardian UK: Africa’s great ‘water grab’

By Claire Provost, November 24, 2011, The Guardian

The banks of the Niger river, in southern Mali, have been flooded by a steady stream of foreigners. Coveted by foreign investors eager to snap up large tracts of fertile farmland, the river basin has been at the centre of a race to get hold of African land at rock-bottom prices. Meanwhile, last week, hundreds of smallholder farmers and civil society activists flocked to the same river basin for the first international conference to tackle the global rush for land.

West Africa’s largest river, the Niger is thought to sustain over 100 million people as it snakes 4,180km through Guinea, Mali and Niger before emptying into Nigeria’s colossal Niger Delta. In Mali, the Office du Niger is home to the vast majority of the country’s largescale land deals, seen by campaigners as emblematic of the “land grabs” taking place in developing countries. Recent estimates suggest that foreign investment in Mali’s limited arable land jumped by 60% between 2009 and 2010. But the potential knock-on effects of these land deals on local communities’ access to water has rarely made it centre-stage.

Ongoing research from the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development seeks to redress this blindspot, honing in on how such land deals might affect water access for fishing, farming and pastoralist communities. In a policy paper out on Thursday, the IIED’s Jamie Skinner and Lorenzo Cotula warn that an alarming number of African governments seem to be signing away water rights for decades, with major implications for local communities.

Investors in farmland are, understandably, after land with high growing potential – either land with lots of rainfall or land that can be irrigated. What Skinner and Cotula note is a worrying trend where governments are being rushed into signing away water rights during negotiations where they were initially only considering leasing land.

In many cases, say Skinner and Cotula, governments seem willing to simply provide water free of charge. In Mali and Sudan, for example, some investors have been given unrestricted access to as much water as they need. In other cases, where investors must pay to use water, they are often charged according to how much land is irrigated rather than how much water is used.

The role water plays in fuelling the global rush for land has received significant attention. It is no coincidence, observers say, that the most aggressive foreign investors are also those facing water shortages at home. This year, risk analysis firm Maplecroft said the results from its water stress index showed why India, South Korea and China, along with the oil rich Gulf states, are racing to buy land in developing countries and grow crops abroad. The chairman and former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, has gone so far as to say the global rush for farmland is actually a “great water grab”. He writes in Foreign Policy: “With the land comes the right to withdraw the water linked to it, in most countries essentially a freebie that increasingly could be the most valuable part of the deal.”

Read the whole article

CNW: Climate Change Threatens Canada’s Water: Report

Coordinated Water Conservation Guidelines Needed To Protect Canada’s Water System

VANCOUVER, Oct. 4, 2011 /CNW/ – Federal, provincial and municipal governments should implement coordinated national and regional water conservation guidelines to address the detrimental impact climate change is having on Canada’s water system, according to a new report from ACT, Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team.

“The days when Canadians take an endless abundance of fresh water for granted are numbered,” warns Bob Sandford, lead author of ACT’s Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance report. “Increasing average temperatures, climate change impacts on weather patterns and extensive changes in land use are seriously affecting the way water moves through the hydrological cycle in many parts of Canada, which is seriously impacting water quantity and quality.”

“If Canada doesn’t become a water conservation society, water security in many parts of this country will be compromised.”

The report calls for a dramatic reform of water governance structures in Canada by all levels of government to meet the new challenges posed by a changing climate, and sets out twelve broad-based recommendations to help protect Canada’s fragile water supply.

Climate change is causing increased weather instability, leading to more frequent, deeper and persistent droughts as well as more intense rainfall and flooding across Canada resulting in greater property damage, higher insurance costs and a greater infrastructure maintenance and replacement deficit nationally.

Today, half of every dollar paid out by insurance companies is for water damage related to extreme weather events, which will continue to increase unless government and planners undertake the deep reforms necessary to manage water differently.

The growing economic impacts of climate change on Canada were confirmed by a national study released last week by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE). According to the NRTEE, the costs of climate change could range from $5 billion per year in 2020 to between $21 billion and $43 billion per year in 2050, depending on global greenhouse gas emissions and domestic economic and population growth.

“Canada is coping with climate change, not adapting,” says Sandford. “Our primary response to climate change has been focussed on reducing emissions. While such action is critical, it is inadequate by itself. Current and projected atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will result in continued climate change regardless of our success in reducing emissions. As well as cutting emissions, Canadians need to adapt to the current and anticipated effects of climate change, which requires more effective management of our precious water resources.”

Water policy in many parts of Canada has not kept pace with changing political, economic and climatic conditions. The last federal water policy was tabled in Parliament over two decades ago and has never been fully implemented. And today, less than 20 percent of Canada’s groundwater sources have been mapped.

One of the key challenges limiting effective water resource management in Canada is jurisdictional fragmentation, as legislative power over freshwater is divided between the federal government and the provinces, producing a complex regulatory web that spans First Nations, municipal, regional, provincial and federal orders of government. This has resulted in serious policy and information gaps contributing to a lack of legally enforceable water quality standards and contributing to the decline of surface and groundwater monitoring as well as water research in Canada.

The complexity, fragmentation and lack of coordination of water policies in Canada creates policies that are often inconsistent with respect to drinking water quality standards, ecosystem protection, allocation rights and climate change adaptation, the Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance report concludes.

“The reform of water governance structures in Canada is essential if we want to successfully manage and protect our water supplies and minimize climate-related impacts on our environment, our economy and our society,” says Sandford.

Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance Recommendations

The federal, provincial and municipal governments establish national and regional water conservation guidelines that values water appropriately and promotes its wise use and conservation;
Governments at all levels formally allocate water to meet nature’s needs and ensure its use is consistent with sustaining resilient and functioning ecological systems;
Strengthen and harmonize flood protection strategies nationally;
Government at all levels should formally support the design and sustainability of water supply and waste disposal infrastructure based on ecological principles and adaptation to a changing climate, with special attention to First Nations communities;
National and regional water monitoring needs to be improved to provide reliable, accessible, up-to-date information needed to effectively manage water in a changing climate;
The role of education in public understanding of the importance of water to our way of life in Canada should be recognized and formally supported;
Water must be recognized as a human right integral to security and health;
A collaborative water governance model should be supported to holistically managing watersheds;
Governments at all levels must recognize the importance of groundwater, understand and value its role in creating a sustainable future for Canada;
Develop coordinated long-term national strategies for sustainably managing water in the face of climate change;
The government of Canada, in association with provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments, should fully articulate and actively promote a new Canadian water ethic; and
Create a non-statutory National Water Commission to advance policy reform and to champion the new Canadian Water ethic;

For the full report, please go to

ACT is a Simon Fraser University-based research program designed to address the fact that Canadians face major impacts of climate change such as violent storms, sea-level rise, water scarcity, energy challenges and health risks. A five-year series of six-month sessions on top-of-mind climate change issues, ACT brings leading experts from around the world together with industry, community and government decision-makers to explore the risks and generate recommendations for sustainable adaptation. Each session features multi-stakeholder conferences and public dialogues that raise awareness and study the problems posed as well as potential solutions. These events support a policy research and development process led by an expert working with a team of graduate researchers to develop policy options for sustainable adaptation to the impacts.

India Water Forum 2011: Water policy should ensure ecosystem sustainability

Via: Bob Payne, Human Dimensions Specialist and Professor at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON / Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management

New Delhi, April 13 (IANS) India’s water policy should ensure sustainability of the ecosystem so that there is adequate availability of water for everyone, Vice President Hamid Ansari said Wednesday.

Speaking at the India Water Forum-2011 to discuss ‘Water security and climate change: Challenges and opportunities’, he emphasised on the need for adopting better governance for tackling challenges related to water security.

 ‘There is a need for adopting better governance to tackle the key challenges that are stemming from changing demographics, shifting geopolitics, widespread poverty and under-development, climate change phenomena and shifting weather patterns, and the elements of globalisation and its attendant consequences,’ said Ansari.

 Union Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid emphasised the need to understand that water is a natural resource for all and is essential for economic development.

‘Demand for water is bound to increase, therefore it is important to develop the resource in a sustainable manner since we cannot create more water than what nature has provided us but can manage water optimally to mitigate the impact of inadequate availability of water,’ he said.