CELA Annual Report, 2005 - excerpted article

Water Sustainability

Sadly, it took the Walkerton tragedy to provide the impetus for some of the most important reforms to environmental protection ever accomplished in Ontario. The work remains unfinished but CELA has played a crucial role in these reforms and continues to do so.

Implementing the Walkerton Inquiry Recommendations
Since its founding in 1970, CELA has advocated for a Safe Drinking Water Act. Justice O’Connor recommended such legislation as part of his Inquiry recommendations for a multi-barrier approach to drinking water protection. The residents of Walkerton were failed by inadequate protections and practices from the local to the provincial level. The multi-barrier approach includes a series of measures to protect water beginning at its source all the way to pipes and taps for final distribution. It arose from the recognition that public safety should not depend on just a single level of responsibility. Ensuring that each of these barriers is put in place will mean new or revised laws across the board and Justice O’Connor spelled out the details necessary to do so.

Safe Drinking Water Act
In 2002, Ontario passed the Safe Drinking Water Act and Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act to address key technical and funding issues for water treatment and safety. These two laws reflected a portion of the priorities for water protection set out by CELA in a model water law presented to the Walkerton Inquiry. CELA continues to make submissions on related regulations under these new laws with respect to their implementation and enforcement. Working with a sister clinic, the Advocacy Centre for Tenants in Ontario, this work has also included attention on whether new regulations raise issues of affordability to low-income residents.

Source Protection
A start at addressing the key barrier of source protection occurred with the passage in 2002 of the Nutrient Management Act to control pollution from farm manure. A phase-in of this law is being overseen by a Provincial Advisory Committee on Nutrient Management, of which CELA is a member. Likewise, CELA has commented on the province’s guidelines for Bio-solids Utilization and continues to meet with farming groups and individuals to reach a better understanding of common goals.

Early consultations on source protection began with the Province establishing the Source Protection Technical and Implementation Committees. CELA participated on the latter committee. Working on the Nutrient Management Committee and advocating for Planning Act reforms (see "On the Land," linked below), CELA kept an eye on these three processes to ensure an integrated package of drinking water source protection measures.

This work began to identify the detailed steps necessary to achieve the goals of source protection. During 2003, CELA worked in partnership with Environmental Defence to craft a vision for Ontario’s source water protection regime. We built an Ontario-wide network of water advocates and held numerous regional workshops. This work resulted in a comprehensive statement of expectations from citizens and organizations which CELA has brought forward in negotiations with the province in framing source protection legislation.

Protecting the Great Lakes
CELA has a long history of advocating for Great Lakes restoration and protection. This work extends to ensuring that greater recognition is given to applying source protection measures to Great Lakes water quality.

International challenges continue in our Great Lakes work as trade and foreign policy differences cause tension between the provincial, state, national and international bodies charged with the lakes’ management and protection. Two related agreements have been the focus of much attention in recent years at CELA – the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) and the Annex to the Great Lakes Charter.

In a just-published book, Paul Muldoon and Lee Botts trace the history of the GLWQA. The book’s release coincides with hearings to be held by the International Joint Commission on the review of that Agreement. Under consideration is the adequacy of the agreement to address new and emerging issues in the Great Lakes. Support of governments to the Agreement as the main vehicle to address Great Lakes water quality has been obscured by US Congress focus on a new US restoration initiative.

CELA has also been involved in a longstanding effort of international negotiations concerning the Great Lakes Charter Annex Agreements to prevent large scale water withdrawals and diversions. CELA served on an advisory committee to the Council of Great Lakes Governors and Premiers and on the panel advising Ontario negotiators. To support these interventions, CELA organized and attended workshops in Ontario and worked with other environmental groups to forge public interest positions on the Annex. Alongside, CELA created background materials and resources for the Ontario public to use during iterative consultations on draft revisions to the Annex.

Our work to address water quantity and conservation issues in the Great Lakes builds upon past collaborations with Great Lakes United (GLU) to address a misguided scheme for bulk water exports from Lake Superior. In addition to the Great Lakes, CELA has also worked to address water sustainability issues within the water-taking system established by the Province. CELA has submitted detailed responses to proposals for reforming the provincial system. Conflicts over water-taking have been a concern for many of our clients reliant on groundwater supplies.