Bill 72 received Royal Assent this week. The new Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act is designed to:
- Promote better water technologies and practices;
- Create clean technology jobs
- Encourage conservation of Ontario water resources
- But not to promote privatization of water utilities.
The Act will set up a Water Technology Acceleration Project, (WaterTAP) a non-Crown corporation intended as a MARS-type incubator / forum for water/ wastewater technologies.
The new Act will require municipalities to prepare water sustainability plans, including asset management, financial plan, water conservation plan, risk assessment, and customer service strategies. It is not yet clear how these plans will be coordinated with Clean Water Act plans, nor how the costs of implementing the plans will be coordinated with the costs needed to meet the new Fisheries Act wastewater system regulations.
The MOE will be able to set water indicators and targets for municipalities, and to require them to measure and report on their performance. Other public agencies may also be required to plan for, and achieve, water conservation targets.
Other rules will require greater transparency in municipal water bills, and will require triennial progress reports.
The remaining parts of Bill 72 amend existing legislation relating to water use. For example, the Building Code must be reviewed now, and every five years, from a water conservation point of view. The Ontario Clean Water Agency will now finance and promote water /wastewater technologies, inside and outside Ontario. The Ontario Water Resources Act will now include authority to make regulations on water conservation and water efficiency standards.
In addition to Bill 72, the MOE is planning to make better use of existing tools to encourage water conservation. For example, the OWRA already allows the MOE to require private water users to develop water conservation plans, a power that has never been used. Ontario may also see water efficiency labelling on consumer and commercial products.