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August 28, 2014

Quebec: New Regulation Respecting Water Withdrawals and Water Protection Designed to Protect Drinking Water

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Quebec’s Minister of Sustainable Development, the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, David Heurtel, announced July 23, 2014, the adoption of the Regulation respecting water withdrawals and water protection (RPEP), pursuant to the Environment Quality Act.

The Regulation supplements the entry into force of the Act to Affirm the Collective Nature of Water Resources and Provide for Increased Water Resource Protection  Published in the July 30, 2014 edition of Gazette officielle du Quebec, the object of this Regulation is to set the terms and conditions for authorizations for the withdrawal of water, as provided for in section 31.75 of the Environment Quality Act (chapter Q-2), and to prescribe certain standards for water withdrawals, water withdrawal facilities and facilities or activities that may affect the quality of water withdrawn in the vicinity. It ensures, in particular, the protection of water withdrawn for human consumption or food processing purposes.

  • A new water withdrawal authorization system: The RPEP is designed to improve the protection of drinking water sources while at the same time reducing certain constraints on agricultural producers. To improve the protection of drinking water sources, protection areas will now apply to surface water withdrawals. Municipalities will be required to perform a vulnerability analysis of their drinking water sources to identify potential risks specific to each source and establish appropriate protection measures. To faciliate such analyses, the government will introduce a technical and financial support program for municipalities. A specific component of the program will also be developed to offset potential income losses of agricultural producers resulting from measures to protect a municipality’s drinking water source.
  • Measures pertaining to hydrocarbons: The regulation is designed to complement the government’s hydrocarbon action plan which includes a set of measures to regulate oil and gas exploration and development projects while protecting drinking water sources. Among the most important measures is a requirement to maintain a minimum distance of 500 metres between a drill site or stratigraphic survey and a water withdrawal intended for human consumption. The distance could be even greater if justified by the hydrogeological study that is required within a radius of two kilometres around a future drilling site. To protect groundwater, the regulation stipulates a vertical separation distance of 600 metres below the ground surface, where fracturing will be prohibited. These measures are among the most stringent in North America.
  • Hydraulic fracturing: Under s.40, the fracturing operation of a well intended for exploration or the production of petroleum or natural gas is prohibited less than 400 metres below the base of an aquifer. The fluid injected in a fracturing operation may not contain either an ethoxylated alkylphenol based surfactant or a substance determined as persistent or bioaccumulative within the meaning of the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations (SOR/2000-107). The Minister must be informed about details of the fracturing program at least 30 days before the fracturing operation begins.

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