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The Living Water Policy Project
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Manitoba Water Policy Data


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Water and water protection has long been a central political issue in Manitoba. Manitoba was the first province to establish a Ministry of Water Stewardship. Manitoba faces extremes of both drought and flood conditions, often in the same year. Hydro and agricultural industries greatly impact water in Manitoba. Quality of water, and especially the issue of eutrophication, has been a major concern in recent years. The growth of record algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg has prompted extensive media attention and research interest, and has led to a number of government protection measures. Even so, the risks of climate change, growing population, and high-water-impact industries continue to pose concerns for the management of water supply and quality.
Manitoba water policy photo essay

Manitoba water policy facts
(click any title below to reveal policy details)

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Basic Introduction
1: Central Water Legislation (Sep 30/11)
Key legislation that was created to manage Manitoba's water resources include the:

The Manitoba Environment Act (1996) although the Act has a broader application than just water, the major review of water projects takes place under this legislation. The intent of this Act is to develop and maintain an environmental protection and management system in Manitoba, which will ensure that the environment is protected and maintained in such a manner as to sustain a high quality of life, including social and economic development, recreation, and leisure for this generation and for future generations.

The Drinking Water Safety Act (2008) provides expertise and educational materials about drinking water safety to water suppliers and the public, to communicate with government departments and agencies, and to facilitate cooperative efforts in drinking water programs and policies as well as issue appropriate licenses and permits associated with the act.

The Water Protection Act (2006) provides for the protection and stewardship of Manitoba's water resources and aquatic ecosystems. The Act allows the minister to establish "water quality zones" (Section 5 (1)) over sensitive areas of the province to protect water, protect against invasive species, or protect against threats of water shortage. This Act also established the formation of regionally based Watershed Management Plans, an ongoing effort to ensure integrated development with watersheds across the province.

The Public Health Act (2006) is a wide-ranging public health policy that includes a number of measures to protect against pollution of drinking water and to ensure the safe disposal of wastewater.

The Water Rights Act (2006) regulates the allocation of water licenses in Manitoba. For analysis of the First in Time Principle of Allocation adhered to in Manitoba see the report Buried Treasure: Groundwater permitting and Pricing in Canada (Nowlan, 2006).

The Water Supply Commissions Act (1997) establishes the powers of water commissioners over local water supply areas. This Act gives authority for the construction and maintenance of local waterworks.

The Water Resources Conservation and Protection Act (2006) protects against the interbasin transfer of water and excludes potable water from being considered a manufactured product.

The Ground Water and Water Well Act (2008) establishes licenses for the drilling of groundwater and provides certain protections from groundwater pollution.

2: Key Ministries & Departments (Sep 30/11)
The Department of Manitoba Water Stewardship is committed to preserving our rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The department works to promote the importance of having quality water for people, the environment, and the economy (Government of Manitoba, n.d).

Manitoba Department of Infrastructure and Transportation is responsible for funding of water and wastewater infrastructure.

The Department of Health is responsible for the safety of drinking water.

As well, many aspects of water supply come under municipal jurisdiction in Manitoba. The Department of Local Government, previously Intergovernmental Affairs, regulates municipal authority. Several other ministries are mostly affected by water regulations, especially Agriculture and Innovation and Energy and Mines.

Finally, environmental assessments are under the domain of the Conservation Department, roughly analogous to the Environment Ministry of other provinces.


3: Water Rights (Sep 30/11)
The Water Rights Act (2006) gives all property owners equal access to water on a first come, first served basis. Any individual or corporation who wishes to use water for agricultural, municipal, industrial, irrigation, or other purposes must first obtain a license. Use of surface water and groundwater for domestic purposes or irrigation does not require a Water Rights License unless consumption exceeds 25,000 litres, the equivalent of 5,500 imperial gallons, per day (Government of Manitoba, Water Stewardship Division, n.d.)  Licenses have precedence in relation to the date of submission of the application of each license. A license that is renewed in accordance with the regulation retains the precedence established in the original license. Note that a licensee is governed by the rights of all preestablished licensees and preestablished domestic users who have priority. The minister may reserve unlicensed water so that a survey may be made showing how the water may be used or diverted to the greatest advantage for Manitobans. The minister may also reserve unlicensed water for such uses and purposes specified by the minister that, in the opinion of the minister, will be of the greatest advantage to the residents of the province. Where water has been reserved, the minister shall not issue a license for this water except in accordance with the terms of the reservation.

The Crown in Manitoba controls use and diversion of water throughout the province. Permission or rights to use water is obtained by license or authorization under The Water Rights Act (2006). The Water Licensing Branch has the responsibility for allocating, under the Water Rights Act (2006), the use of water resources within the province. The Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of the Water Rights Act (2006) according to their intent.

There does not seem to be a maximum eligibility for extraction. Licenses are issued for a time period appropriate for the situation to a maximum of 20 years and may be renewed upon application. A license may be suspended or cancelled for many reasons, such as not making beneficial use of the water, not paying abstraction rentals, or not following the terms and conditions of the license. There have been few instances of water extraction being denied. Only in the southwest part of the province in the Assiniboine Delta region has the province limited extraction license approval.

A Water Rights License does not assure that water will always be available. The license authorizes the diversion and use of a specified quantity of water, if available.

The Clean Environment Commission is an arms length quasi-judicial board with authority to review applications for water transfer. In 2006, the Clean Environment Commission recommended against a license from the Pembina Valley Water Cooperative to transfer water from the Sandilands Aquifer into this fast growing region of southwest Manitoba (Manitoba Eco-Network, n.d.) 

First Nations rights to water are not yet explicitly and legally acknowledged in any provincial or federal legislation. The 1987 Federal Water Policy (Environment Canada, 1987) acknowledges Native interests in water but this has not generally been reflected in provincial allocation decisions.


4: Data Collection/Monitoring (Sep 30/11)
The Water Quality Management Section of the Manitoba Water Stewardship department operates an ambient and hydromentric monitoring network on major streams and lakes, including Shoal Lake, other municipal water supplies, and recreational beaches, assisted by volunteers, organizations such as Conservation Districts, and Regional personnel (Government of Manitoba, Water Quality Management, n.d.).

The quality of water at nearly 50 beaches is monitored and information is posted as it becomes available (Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Water Stewardship, n.d.)

As part of the basic scientific activities related to the draft Nutrient Management Strategy (2001), considerable water quality work is being undertaken on Lake Winnipeg to better understand its existing condition, and to develop a water quality model to assist with better managing inputs of nutrients.

The Groundwater Management Division, which is part of the Manitoba Water Stewardshi, provides hydrometric monitoring and groundwater data compilation for the Province. The Water Quality Management Section advises on groundwater resource management and protection and carries out studies, which enhance knowledge of groundwater resources in the province, and also provides maps and reports, which describe local and regional resources and quality and identifies areas where quality problems may or may not occur.

There are no provincial or territorial programs to monitor drinking water or water resources in First Nations communities.


5: Transboundary Issues (Sep 30/11)
To resolve conflicts between upstream uses and downstream needs, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Canada signed the Prairie Provinces Water Board Agreement in 1948. This agreement worked well until the 1960s, when the provinces began requesting large allocations of water. In 1969, the parties to the original agreement signed the Master Agreement on Apportionment, which continues to guide the activities of the Prairie Provinces Water Board to this day. There are non-binding water quality objectives in place under the Prairie Provinces Water Board Agreement (1948)

The Master Agreement on Apportionment (1969) contains a simple formula based on the principle of equal sharing of available water in the prairies. The formula states that Alberta and Saskatchewan may each take up to one half of the natural flow of water originating within their boundaries and one half of the flow entering the province. The remainder is left to flow into Manitoba. Although calculating natural flow can be difficult the results of the Master Agreement on Apportionment are that all three provinces, even in drought periods, end up with approximately equal shares of the total water flow.

In order to provide for development, in 1989 Canada and the United States entered into an agreement for water supply and flood control in the Souris River Basin (Government of Manitoba, Transboundary Water Agreements, n.d.).  This agreement called for the construction, operation, and maintenance of reservoir projects in the Canadian portion of the basin. It was intended that these projects would provide water supply benefits in Canada and flood control benefits in the United States in a manner consistent with the Boundary Waters Treaty (1909).  This agreement also called for the establishment of a Bilateral Water Quality Monitoring Group to development recommendations on water quality objectives.

Other transboundary issues include the Northwest Area Water Supply Project and the Red River Valley Water Supply Project (Government of Manitoba, Transboundary Water Agreements, n.d.)

There are no agreements between any levels of government acknowledging First Nations water rights, except those delineated under land claim or self-government agreements, such as the Nisga'a Agreement.


Water Quality
1: Drinking Water Laws (Sep 30/11)
The Drinking Water Safety Act (2002) is responsible for safe drinking water. 

On Aboriginal reserves drinking water is a federal responsibility.

First Nations communities are located on Federal Reserve land, which falls within Federal jurisdiction. Provincial drinking water legislation does not apply to these communities.


2: Source Water Protection (Sep 30/11)
The Drinking Water Safety Act (2003), Groundwater and Water Well Act (2006), Manitoba Provincial Water Strategy (2003), and the Water Protection Act (2006) all encompass source water protection measures in one form or another.

Manitoba's water strategy focuses on an integrated watershed planning and management approach. This involves consolidating water management into one department, Water Stewardship, and developing comprehensive legislation to merge water related policy into a few Acts. The Water Protection Act (2006) explicitly recognizes that clean drinking water requires source protection. Provincial policies regarding drinking water emphasize aquatic integrity to support higher quality water for human consumption. Source water protection plans are to be developed by water planning authorities as part of an Integrated Watershed Resource Management Plan (Government of Manitoba, n.d) to evaluate and mitigate risks to source water and assist local governments with protecting water quality. Where Conservation Districts exist, they may be designated as the Water Planning Authority for their watershed.

Source water protection policy does not address protection of First Nations water.


3: Wellfield Protection (Sep 30/11)
The Ground Water and Water Well Act (2008) regulates the management of well. A driller's license is required to drill. There is guidance for well water treatment but no standards. There does not appear to be wellfield protection planning, just a general clause to protect groundwater from contamination.

4: Groundwater Permitting (Sep 30/11)
The Department of Water Stewardship manages the groundwater license process, which is mandated under the Water Rights Act (2006) and regulated under the water rights regulation. The permit process for groundwater requires reporting to be done by licensee by location, source, and purpose of extraction. While notification requirements for permit applications are discretionary every licence holder is required to keep records of water use on a form approved by the minister. If an environmental assessment procedure is required then public opportunity to comment is allowed although any person affected by an order or decision can appeal (Ground Water and Water Well Act, 2010)

The Manitoba Floodway Authority has established a Groundwater Action Response Plan (MFA, n.d.), which includes a 24-hour/day, 7-day/week, toll-free telephone line to respond to any well water impacts that may be experienced by property owners in the vicinity of construction. This toll-free number helps to ensure that the Manitoba Floodway Authority responds in a timely manner to any unforeseen and temporary groundwater impacts due to construction. The Manitoba Floodway Authority does not anticipate any permanent groundwater impacts for water in your well over the course of the project

Provincial permitting processes do not apply to Federal lands such as First Nations reserves and communities.


5: Storm/Waste Water Management (Sep 30/11)
Regular overflows of sewage into the Red River result from combined sewage and stormwater in Winnipeg.  The province has mandated upgrading of the City's wastewater treatment both to handle increased capacity and to remove nitrogen and phosphorus.

In September 2009, the province announced new regulations for sewage disposal to prohibit the use of a disposal field for new systems in sensitive areas, Crown land cottage developments, provincial parks, and portions of the Red River corridor; the installation of new sewage ejectors and eliminate existing sewage ejectors at the time of any property transfer. The regulations will require a two-acre minimum lot size for the installation of disposal fields, a hookup to municipal collection systems in serviced areas, and municipal waste-water management planning (Water Works, Sewerage and Sewage Disposal Regulation, 1988)

Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities.


6: Ecosystem Quality Needs (Sep 30/11)
The Manitoba Environment Act (1996), regulates wastewater treatment plants. The set terms and conditions require communities to regularly monitor plant operations and the quality of effluent discharged from the plants to the rivers. This includes daily routine tests for biochemical oxygen demand and for nutrients such as phosphorus. It should be noted that Manitoba does not have a formal system of calculating and imposing in-stream flow needs when considering both withdrawals and discharges for example the in-stream flow needs for the Assiniboine River was arbitrarily set at 200 cubic feet per second 40 years ago and remains so today (Brandson, personal communication, January 10, 2010).


Water Quantity
1: Water Conservation Strategy (Sep 30/11)
Manitoba Water Stewardship is tasked with developing a Water Efficiency Strategy. The purpose of this strategy would be to identify:
  • ways to help Manitobans achieve water efficiency (incentives),
  • requirements for Manitobans to achieve water efficiency (regulations), and
  • Information and guidelines on water use (what you should know). (Government of Manitoba, n.d., ¶ 3-5)
Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities.

Learn more about Manitoba conservation initiatives and requirements at the Alliance for Water Efficiency.


2: Ecosystem Quantity Needs (Sep 30/11)
The issuance of a Water Rights License in Manitoba, in addition to determining the availability of water for allocation, requires an estimate of a threshold flow above which a user may pump water from the stream. This flow value is referred to as an in-stream Flow Need (IFN). IFNs were established to protect a stream's environmental needs and downstream riparian users. The IFN is a specified minimum instantaneous flow that determines when a user may pump from the stream. Only when the flow in the stream is greater than the IFN can pumping occur. If the flow is less than the IFN, pumping must cease (Nowlen, 2005).

3: Interbasin Transfers (Sep 30/11)
Regulated under the Water Resources Conservation Act (2006) interbasin transfers are prohibited in quantities greater than 25 litres in one container. Some transfers continue today that predate that ban, most notably the Churchill River Diversion in the North (Brandson, personal communications, January 10, 2010).


4: Climate Change Linkage (Sep 30/11)
In 2002, the government released Manitoba's first climate change Action Plan.  By 2008 the Government outlined a strategy for action for the energy sector, transportation, agriculture, municipalities, business, and citizens.  the strategy included an adaptation strategy (Government of Manitoba, 2011).

References (Sep 30/11)

Document Disclaimer:

Every effort has been made to ensure complete accuracy of the content of this briefing note but this document is only a summary and should not be considered legal or planning advice. Please refer to the relevant legislation and regulations for further information.

References

Brandson, personal communication, January 10, 2010

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2010) Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/home-accueil_e.htm

Drinking Water Safety Act, C.C.S.M. c. D101  

Environment Act Fees Regulation, Man. Reg. 168/96

Friends of Earth Canada (2004) Friends of the Earth Canada. Retrieved from: http://www.foecanada.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=181&Itemid=135

Government of Manitoba (n.d.) Green and Growing strategy. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://www.gov.mb.ca/greenandgrowing/intro.html  

Government of Manitoba (n.d.) Integrated Watershed Management Planning. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/agencies/cd/pdf/iwmp_brochure_detailed.pdf

Government of Manitoba. (2003). Water Efficiency Strategy. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.gov.mb.ca/seeinggreen/water/protect_water.html

Government of Manitoba (2009) Manitoba Water Stewardship: Annual Report 2008 - 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/misc/2008-9_annual_report.pdf 

 

Goverment of Manitoba (2011) Next  Steps:  2008 Action on Climate Change. Retrieved from http://ww.gov.mb.ca/beyond_kyoto/

Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Conservation (n.d.) Manitoba Conservation.   Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/

Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Health (n.d.) Manitoba health. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://www.gov.mb.ca/health/

Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation (n.d.) Infrastructure and Transportation. Retrieved March, 26, 2010 from http://www.gov.mb.ca/mit/

Government of Manitoba, Manitoba Water Stewardship (n.d.) Beach Monitoring Data. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from    http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/quality/beach_table.html

Government of Manitoba, Water Stewardship Division (2003) The Manitoba Water Strategy. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from 
http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/waterstrategy/pdf/1-3.pdf

Government of Manitoba, Water Stewardship Division (n.d.) Transboundary Water Agreements. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from  http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/water_info/transboundary/agreements.html#d

Government of Manitoba, Water Stewardship Division (n.d.) Water Quality Management. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/water_quality/quality/index.html

Government of Manitoba, Water Stewardship Division (n.d.) Water Use Licensing - Ob   taining a Water Rights License. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from       http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/licensing/wlb/obtaining.html

Government of Manitoba, Water Stewardship Division (n.d.) Water Use Efficiency. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from    http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/water_info/water_use/index.html

Ground Water and Water Well Act, C.C.S.M. c. G110 International Boundary Waters Treaty Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-17

Manitoba Eco-Network (n.d.) The Pembina Valley Water Cooperative Supplementary Water Supply Project - More Pipes, More Water? Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.mbeconetwork.org/wc/pdfs/PVWC.pdf

Manitoba Floodway Authority (n.d.) Groundwater Action Response Plan. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from                          http://www.floodwayauthority.mb.ca/pdf/gwction_responseplan%20.pdf

Environment Canada. (1969). Master Agreement on Apportionment. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from  http://www.mb.ec.gc.ca/water/fb01/fb00s04.en.html

Nowlan (2006) Buried Treasure: Groundwater Permitting and Pricing in Canada  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.buriedtreasurecanada.org/Buried_Treasure.pdf

Nutrient Management Regulation, Man. Reg. 62/2008  

Public Health Act, C.C.S.M. c. P210

Water Protection Act, C.C.S.M. c. W65

Water Resources Conservation Act, C.C.S.M. c. W72

Water Rights Act, C.C.S.M. c. W80

Water Supply Commissions Act, C.C.S.M. c. W100

Water Works, Sewerage and Sewage Disposal Regulation, Man. Reg. 331/88 R

Build a table comparing Manitoba policy to any of the following provinces & territories: (MAX of 2)
Alberta

British Columbia

New Brunswick

Newfoundland

Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia

Nunavut

Ontario

Prince Edward Island

Québec

Saskatchewan

Yukon


Manitoba water policy documents

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