Plenty of industries “still pay nothing” for drawing millions of litres of Ontario water thanks to outdated blanket laws, according to the province's acting environmental commissioner.
Ellen Schwartzel tabled her office’s annual report Tuesday and said antiquated laws benefit companies such as bottled water producers.
“The few industries that are charged only pay $3.71 per million litres of water,” said Schwartzel. “This works out to less than $10 to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.”
It takes approximately 2.5 million litres of water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. (Photo: Getty Images)
She listed other businesses such as agriculture, sand and gravel companies, and golf courses that can take more than 50,000 litres of water on any given day from surface sources, groundwater, and municipal supplies.
Schwartzel warned that a growing urban population is propelling heavier usage in some parts of the province. Without higher fees in place to promote conservation, she said, more ecosystems are coming under periodic stress with declining water levels.
“We can no longer take our province’s water supplies for granted,” she said, adding it’s time for the province to up its water-taking charge.
She noted the piecemeal money collected from industry only recovers a sliver of the $16.2-million in funding the government pours into water quality management programs.
Aside from the fiscal concerns she outlined, Schwartzel also criticized the shroud of secrecy covering details of short-term “high-risk uses” of public water sources.
Currently, only a quarter of all registered water-taking permits are listed in Ontario’s Environmental Registry.
“These are permits the public should have a right to see and comment on — and not only because transparency is a worthy principle,” she said.
The B.C. government came under fire this summer for not charging companies enough to tap into the province's aquifers. A proposed charge of $2.25 per million litres was scrapped and a new rate plan is being reviewed.
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