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Ontario Announces Plans to Introduce a New Water-Taking Charge to Apply to Facilities Taking and Bottling Groundwater

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Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) posted on the Environmental Registry, January 18, 2017, notice of a regulation that will, if approved, apply a new charge to apply to facilities that take groundwater for the purpose of producing bottled water that is packaged in plastic bottles or other types of portable containers. According to the Ministry, the proposed new charge would be a separate and distinct regulatory charge from the existing water charge under Ontario Regulation 450/07 (Charges for Industrial and Commercial Water Users) of the province’s Ontario Water Resources Act.
Under that Regulation, highly consumptive water users [taking more than 50,000 litres of water on any day and identified in the regulation as "phase 1 industrial or commercial water users"] are required to pay $3.71 per million litres of water they use annually. These are facilities that incorporate a significant portion of the water they use into their products and do not return it to the local watershed. Under the proposed new regulation, commencing August 1, 2017, MOECC proposes to levy a charge of $500 per million litres on the total amount of groundwater that a water bottling facility uses in a calendar year. Where a facility also uses groundwater to produce products other than bottled water (e.g., soft drinks, beer), the charge would only apply to the amount of water used to produce bottled water. In these situations, in addition to reporting to the Ministry the total amount of water taken, facilities would be required to report to the Ministry the total volume of water used to produce bottled water. If a facility fails to report the portion of water used for producing bottled water, the charge would be determined using the total volume of groundwater used. It is anticipated that the Ministry’s first invoice for the proposed charge would be issued before the end of 2018 for total amount of groundwater used by a water bottling facility between August 1 and December 31, 2017.
Ontario finalized a two-year moratorium on new and expanded water takings by bottling companies on Dec. 16, 2016. The moratorium remains in effect until Jan. 1, 2019. Ontario is also seeking feedback from the public on stricter rules for existing water bottling companies that use groundwater. The proposed rules are posted on the Environmental Registry for comment and will remain open until Jan. 31, 2017. Comments on the regulatory proposal are due by March 20, 2017.

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