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The Living Water Policy Project
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New Brunswick Water Policy Data


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The province of New Brunswick is heavily dependent on forestry, mining, and fishing, but with the growth of service industries, specialized manufacturing, energy, and food processing sectors, the provincial economy has become increasingly diversified (Government of New Brunswick, 2010). The province contains the largest oil refinery in Canada and has a developing natural gas industry including the first liquid natural gas degasification plant in Canada (Government of New Brunswick, 2010).  There has been a history of acid rain, originating primarily from sources outside the province. Other provincial water management issues include salt water intrusion into coastal water wells, a proliferation of small dams, concerns about water quality in private wells-which serve about 40% of the province's population, and pulp mill effluent discharges (New Brunswick Department of Environment, 2008)

The Province of New Brunswick also has a history of flooding, with incidents of varying severity.  Flood-prone areas of New Brunswick include both coastal and inland locations. Causes of flooding include heavy rainfall, ice jams, storm surges, and snow melt. .

 

New Brunswick water policy photo essay

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

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Basic Introduction
1: Central Water Legislation (Mar 14/14)

Under the Clean Water Act (1989), and the Clean Environment Act (1971), administered by the Department of Environment, control of surface and groundwater rests with the New Brunswick government. These Acts give government the ability to regulate, control, or prohibit the withdrawal of water and provide broad powers to the Minister of Environment for the protection and management of fresh water, and require anyone discharging a contaminant to obtain approval from the Minister. Order-making powers are also given to the Minister, which provide a means of controlling or stopping the discharge of contaminants and requiring the clean-up of contaminated sites. Key regulations under the Clean Water Act (1989) include the Potable Water Regulation (1993) the Water Well Regulation (2002), the Protected Areas Designation Order (2001) to protect municipal water sources, and the Watercourse Alteration Regulation (1990).  The Water Quality Regulation (1982) under the Clean Environment Act is another key piece of legislation. Other important legislation includes the Public Health Act (1998).

2: Key Ministries & Departments (Mar 14/14)

The Department of Environment is principally responsible for water management, but the Department of Natural Resources is responsible for policy development and enforcement of water-related regulations on Crown lands, representing about 50% of the province.

The Department of Health is responsible for establishing New Brunswick guidelines for drinking water quality, issuing public advisories, and investigating water quality conditions that may affect public health. The Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture is responsible for identifying freshwater requirements for agriculture and aquaculture and promoting best management practices to protect water quality. The Department of Tourism and Parks is responsible for promoting tourism including the recreational use of water. The Department of Local Government and the Department of Environment are jointly responsible for administering funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. 

3: Water Rights (Mar 14/14)
The province does not have an overarching water allocation strategy. Permission to use water is granted on a case-by-case basis using a variety of instruments. A technical review called the Water Supply Source Assessment (WSSA) process typically applies to projects initiated by the public or private sector that require a water supply having a capacity of greater than 50 cubic metres per day (Government of NB, 2004).  Projects that require a WSSA include the construction or modification of municipal or industrial water supplies, large-scale subdivision developments in unincorporated areas, and communal water supply wells. Use of more than 50 cubic metres of water per day is also a trigger for a review under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation of the Clean Water Act (1989). Any draining, pumping, or other water extraction from a watercourse or wetland requires a permit under the Watercourse and Wetland Alteration Regulation of the Clean Water Act. For watersheds that serve as a municipal water supply and have been designated under the Watershed Protected Areas Designation Order (2001), the amount of water that can be extracted is limited to ensure that at least 25% of the average monthly flow is maintained at all times (Government of NB, 2004).

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 (Mar 14/14)

Water quality and quantity information in New Brunswick is available from a number of sources including:

a) A network of 57 surface water quality monitoring stations that are sampled manually four times each year; (b) five real-time surface water quality monitoring stations (one  provincial and four federal); (c) 60 real-time stream flow/water elevation gauges; and (d) nine groundwater level observation wells. Site-specific water quality data are also obtained from surface and groundwater monitoring required as conditions of approvals issued for specific facilities, such as wastewater treatments plants and sanitary landfills (New Brunswick Department of Environment, 2008) The Hydrology Centre, within the Department of Environment, conducts flow and water level monitoring of water resources across New Brunswick using the above noted groundwater and surface water monitoring network (New Brunswick Department of Environment, 2008) Resultant data are released in a monthly water resources summary and water conditions outlook for the province. The Hydrology Center also performs flow and flood forecasting within the Saint John River Basin, which is the largest drainage basin in the province and is often subject to flood events of varying magnitudes. Information on factors affecting river flows and the potential for flooding, such as stream-flow conditions, snow surveys, and observed temperature and precipitation patterns, are routinely monitored through a variety of sensors and communications systems, ranging from telephone to satellite. Resultant data are then input to several computer models along with weather forecasts to produce forecasts of water levels throughout the Saint John River Basin. Observations of river ice conditions and potential for ice jams are also made within the Saint John River Basin and at other locations within the Province where ice jams have historically occurred. The resultant information is posted to the Province of New Brunswick's "River Watch" web page (2010).  The Hydrology Centre works with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, which is responsible for issuing any flood or ice jam related public alerts. Under the Potable Water Regulation of the Clean Water Act (1989), the Province of New Brunswick maintains a database of groundwater quality data collected from domestic water wells drilled since 1994. In 2008, this information was compiled into The New Brunswick Groundwater Chemistry Atlas, available on the Department of Environment website (2010). The atlas provides information on 28 naturally occurring chemical parameters related to groundwater quality, including hardness, pH, fluoride, arsenic, and uranium. It also provides information on geology, well depth, and location. WaterTrax is another key water management tool that is being utilized by the province.  It is a secure, Internet-based service that provides a central database for the collection of drinking water sample results as reported by labs serving public water systems throughout the province. Authorized users can access information online with no special software requirements other than an Internet browser. The system, developed by the private sector, is currently accessible by authorized users in the Department of Environment and the Department of Health and allows faster and better analysis of sampling plan compliance and water quality trends. Functions include automatic email notification of any new results that indicate unacceptable water quality and management of advisories such as boil orders. The collection of water samples to monitor water quality at selected beaches is conducted by the Department of Health (n.d).  Some municipalities also monitor water quality of recreational waters within their boundaries. In addition to regular monitoring activities, the Department of Health also conducts investigations in public swimming areas where there is a potential health nuisance reported by the public. Beaches are closed (posted with warning signs) when necessary to protect public health. The New Brunswick Aquatic Data Warehouse is an on-line GIS-based repository of fisheries and aquatic information for the Province of New Brunswick (University of New Brunswick, n.d.).  Its purpose is to support ecosystem-based resource management by providing a framework to coordinate the management and sharing of aquatic resource data among provincial and federal governments, NGOs, industry and the public. The New Brunswick Aquatic Data Warehouse is operated from the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and is supported by a number of agencies, including the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environment (University of New Brunswick, n.d.). There are no provincial or territorial programs to monitor drinking water or water resources in First Nations communities. 

5: Transboundary Issues (Mar 14/14)

The St. Croix International Waterway Commission is an independent, international body established by the Maine and New Brunswick legislatures to plan for and facilitate delivery of a heritage management plan for the St. Croix boundary corridor. It was established through a 1986 Memorandum of Understanding and 1987 Legislative Acts by the State of Maine and the Province of New Brunswick and extends the full length of the St. Croix boundary waters.

Other transboundary initiatives include: 1) There is a Maine-NB reporting relationship where notifications of environmental incidents such as spills or other types of issues get exchanged between Maine's Department of Environmental Protection and the New Brunswick Department of Environment. 2) There is a Saint John River Basin Hydrology Committee which is a multi-jurisdictional forum for sharing science and engineering expertise and resolving concerns related to monitoring, and flow forecasting for the Saint John River Basin. 3) There is also an agreement between Quebec- and NB that ensures regular discussion ofTrans-boundary concerns related to the environment, including water. http://www.gnb.ca/0009/0001-e.pdf 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 (Mar 14/14)
Two regulations relate to drinking water: the Potable Water Regulation (1993) and the Water Well Regulation (1990) under the Clean Water Act (1989). The Potable Water Regulation governs drinking water and sets requirements established jointly by the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health. This regulation requires regular testing of public water supplies and testing by domestic well owners when new wells are constructed or when an existing well is reconstructed. The Well Water Regulation outlines procedures that must be followed by both those who drill wells and by domestic well owners.

Municipal drinking water in New Brunswick is tested before and after treatment, as required by the Potable Water Regulation (1993) under the Clean Water Act (1989). Mandatory reporting of test results to the Department of Health since 1994 has ensured that all test results are reviewed from a health and safety perspective. As a further means of achieving protection, Department of Environment issues operating approvals for municipal water supply systems. In addition, the Department of Environment requires that operators of these systems be properly trained and certified (Water Quality Regulations, 2009) 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 (Mar 14/14)

Drinking water source protection is accomplished by restricting activities in and around all designated sources of municipal drinking water, as specified by the Watershed Protected Area Designation Order (2001) and the Wellfield Protected Area Designation Order (2000) under the Clean Water Act (1989). All designated municipal surface water sources are now protected.  The Department of Environment is working in cooperation with municipalities toward the protection of the remaining wellfields. Private groundwater wells in New Brunswick are also afforded protection through the site, design, sampling, and decommissioning requirements of the Water Well Regulation (2002) and the Potable Water Regulation (1993) under the Clean Water Act, which are applicable to wells as they are constructed and decommissioned.

Source water is also protected from development pressures under the Watershed Protection Program (1989). The program recognizes the need for a comprehensive, proactive approach to control development in areas where the sources of drinking water are lakes, streams, and rivers. Under the Watershed Protection Program, standards can be put in place that limit harmful activities. Source water protection policy does not address protection of First Nations water. 

3: Wellfield Protection (Mar 14/14)

The Wellfield Protected Area Designation Order (2001) regulates activities in municipal wellfield areas. The Water Well Regulation (2002) of the Clean Water Act (1989) specifies setback distances from structures and identifies potential contaminant sources for private wells.

The Clean Water Act (1989) requires that all new well construction, deepening of existing wells, and well abandonment must be carried out by a licensed New Brunswick water well contractor and licensed well driller. A well driller or a well drilling company is not responsible for guaranteeing well water quality or quantity to the homeowner. However, drillers must comply with the minimum well construction and location requirements as specified in the Water Well Regulation (2002) under the Clean Water Act (1989). The driller is also required to provide a detailed Water Well Driller's Report to the homeowner and the Department of Environment once the well is complete. It is strongly recommended by the Department of Environment, and the New Brunswick Groundwater Association that the homeowner signs a formal legal agreement with the contractor to ensure that both parties understand the process prior to work commencing. 

4: Groundwater Permitting (Mar 14/14)
The Water Supply Source Assessment (WSSA) process typically applies to projects initiated by the public or private sector that require a water supply having a capacity greater than 50 cubic metres per day. It is usually implemented via the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulation (1987).  Projects that require a WSSA include the construction or modification of municipal or industrial groundwater supplies, large-scale subdivision developments in unincorporated areas, and communal water supply wells. The purpose of a WSSA is to: (a) ensure that the water is of sufficient quality and quantity for the intended use, (b) ensure that the water quantity and quality is sustainable in the short- and long-term, and (c) assess potential impacts to existing water users. WSSAs are conducted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Department of Environment and must be completed under the direct supervision of a qualified hydrogeologist registered as a professional engineer or geoscientist with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick.

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

5: Storm/Waste Water Management (Mar 14/14)

No overarching provincial stormwater policies or strategies exist. Some early planning on adapting infrastructure, including stormwater systems, to climate change is underway.

The Department of Environment (n.d.) delivers several air and water quality protection programs to restrict the discharge of contaminants from industrial and municipal sources using an approvals process. In the case of discharges to water, these programs require facility operators to abide by pollution limitation or prevention conditions established in relation to the assimilative capacity and classification of the receiving waters. Additional conditions may also be imposed on operators. For example, the Department of Environment requires that municipal wastewater system operators be properly trained and certified.  It is an approach that has proven adaptable to a wide variety of facilities, allowing sector-wide standards to be adopted, but also allowing unique circumstances to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities. 

6: Ecosystem Quality Needs (Mar 14/14)

The Water Classification Regulation (2002) under the Clean Water Act (1989) is intended to protect all surface waters in the province by establishing water quality goals and standards for each watershed, to guide decision-making with respect to water use and development activities. After classification, an action plan is developed that lists and prioritizes activities that will help to protect or restore a river system according to the goals set through the water classification process. Watershed-based community groups provide support and assistance to the Department of Environment in developing and implementing the action plans.

Ecosystem water quality needs are also considered in the issuance of approvals to construct and operate by the Department of Environment and in the review of projects and undertakings under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation of the Clean Environment Act (1971). 

Water Quantity
1: Water Conservation Strategy (Mar 14/14)

There is currently no overarching water conservation plan or strategy. It is possible that this could be an element of the provincial water management strategy, the development of which is a requirement under the Climate Change Action Plan 2007-2012 (Government of NB, 2007)

Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities. Learn more about New Brunswick's conservation initiatives and requirements with the Alliance for Water Efficiency.   

2: Ecosystem Quantity Needs (Mar 14/14)

Flow maintenance for ecosystem purposes is considered for proposed extractions of surface water. Such extractions require a permit under the Watercourse and Wetland Alteration Regulation (2006) of the Clean Water Act (1989) and may trigger a review under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation of the Clean Environment Act (1971).  For watersheds that serve as a municipal water supply and have been designated under the Watershed Protected Areas Designation Order (2001), the amount of water that can be extracted is limited to ensure that at least 25% of the average monthly flow is maintained at all times

3: Interbasin Transfers (Mar 14/14)
All projects involving the transfer of water between drainage basins are subject to the requirements of the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation (1987) of the Clean Environment Act (1971).



4: Climate Change Linkage (Mar 14/14)

The Department of Environment has developed the Climate Change Action Plan 2007-2012 (2007), which includes a section on adaptation and requires that a comprehensive provincial water management strategy be developed by 2012. This plan also requires that Government "continue to retrofit existing public buildings to improve energy efficiency and water conservation" (p. 22) and commits the Province to developing a Provincial Planning Policy to ensure that climate change predictions will be considered in land, air, and water planning.

The four Atlantic Departments of Environment, led by the Province of New Brunswick, have developed a partnership under Natural Resources Canada's Regional Adaptation Collaborative program to access funding for adaptation to climate change. Resultant projects are expected to be completed by 2013 and include precise elevation mapping using LIDAR (airborne laser radar), plus future climate and sea level predictions, to identify risks due to present and future flooding at selected locations in New Brunswick communities. 

References (Mar 14/14)

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

Clean Environment Act, R.S.N.B. 1973, c. C-6

Clean Water Act, S.N.B. 1989, c. C-6.1

Department of Environment, New Brunswick (2004) Guidelines to the Water Supply Source Assessment Process. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.gnb.ca/0009/0021-e.pdf

Department of Environment, New Brunswick (2008) New Brunswick Groundwater Chemistry Atlas: 1994-2007. Sciences and Reporting Branch, Sciences and Planning Division, Environmental Reporting Series T2008-01, pp.31.

Department of Environment, New Brunswick (n.d.) Groundwater Chemistry Atlas: 1994-2007. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://www.gnb.ca/0009/0371/0014/index-e.asp

Department of Environment, New Brunswick (n.d.) Publications. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from: http://www.gnb.ca/0009/0010-e.asp

Department of Health, New Brunswick (n.d) Water Quality and Testing.  Retrieved March 26, 21010 from http://www.gnb.ca/0053/public_health/water-quality-e.asp

Department of the Environment, New Brunswick (2007) Climate Change Action Plan 2007-2012. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.gnb.ca/0009/0369/0015/0001-e.asp

Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation, N.B. Reg. 87-83

Government of New Brunswick (n.d.) Protected Areas Designation. Retrieved March 26, 2010, from http://app.infoaa.7700.gnb.ca/gnb/Pub/EServices/ListServiceDetails.asp?ServiceID1=201091&ReportType1=ALL

Government of New Brunswick (n.d.) River Watch. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.gnb.ca/public/Riverwatch/index-e.asp

Government of New Brunswick (2010) Industry. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/nb/Industry-e.asp#manu

Potable Water Regulation, N.B. Reg. 93-203

Public Health Act, S.N.B. 1998, c. P-22.4

St. Croix International Waterway Commission Act, S.N.B. 1987, c. S-14.1

St. Croix International Waterway Commission (n.d.) St. Croix International Waterway Commission. Retrieved from: http://www.stcroix.org/

University of New Brunsiwck (n.d.) what is NB Aquatic Data Warehouse. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.unb.ca/research/institutes/cri/nbaquatic/

Water Classification Regulation, N.B. Reg. 2002-13

Water Quality Regulation, N.B. Reg. 82-126

Water Well Regulation, N.B. Reg. 90-79

Watercourse and Wetland Alteration Regulation, N.B. Reg. 90-80,

Watershed Protected Area Designation Order,N.B. Reg. 2001-83

WaterTrax (n.d.) Software at your Service. Retrieved March, 26, 2010 from http://www.watertrax.com/news-events/documents/WaterTrax-SaintJohnWaterCaseStudy.pdf

Wellfield Protected Area Designation Order, N.B. Reg. 2000-47


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