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The Living Water Policy Project
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Newfoundland Water Policy Data


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The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is currently governed by the Progressive Conservative Party. In 2008, it achieved "have" status as a province largely due to growth in the service industry, and the gas and oil industry.  The west coast of Newfoundland will be subject to fracking activity in the coming years increasing the impacts of an energy extraction economy

In 2002, Newfoundland and Labrador passed the Water Resources Act (2002) which consolidated the authority of the Crown to manage surface water, ground water, and other related resources.  This focuses mainly on water quality monitoring, comprehensive water use allocation (including a rights granting system), and a multibarrier approach to protecting public water areas.  Major sectors within the province relevant to water include: oil and gas, forestry, mining, and manufacturing.

Newfoundland water policy photo essay

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

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Basic Introduction
1: Central Water Legislation (Mar 13/14)
The purpose of the Water Resources Act (2002) is to ensure the continuing availability of clean water for the environmental, social and economic well-being of the province.  Amended in 2004 and 2008, this Act provides for the management and control of water resources within one law (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2002).  Its development helped clarify and consolidate eight provincial acts, adding new or increased authority over: permitting and licensing, dam safety, monitoring or inspection, flow regulation, restrictions in wetland areas, priority of uses, and registering water rights.

The Water Resources Act has two elements: water protection and resource management. The water protection provisions help minimize the adverse effects of human activities on water, accomplished using a permitting system.  The water resource management provisions (including water rights) help ensure fair allocation and proper utilization of water resources to maximize socio-economic benefits. In conjunction with the Water Resources Act, the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act (2004) recognizes the right of self-government for the Inuit of Labrador.  Where the Water Resources Act is inconsistent or conflicts with the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act, precedence is given to the latter. The Environmental Protection Act (2002), amended in 2004 and 2006; the Municipalities Act (1999), amended in 2004 through 2007; and the Health and Community Services Act (1995), amended in 1997 through 2006, also relate to freshwater management from general perspectives.

2: Key Ministries & Departments (Mar 13/14)
The Department of Environment and Conservation (Water Resources Management Division) is the main body responsible for managing water resources in the province.  Its minister is responsible for the conservation, development, control, improvement and proper utilization of water resources, as well as protection and enhancement of water quality.  The department administers laws concerning allocation, stream alterations, protection of water supply areas, licensing of well drillers, and other aspects under the Water Resources Act (2002).

Other provincial departments have water-related responsibilities, including: Government Services; Natural Resources, who manages climate change and resources such as forests, minerals, and oil and gas; Municipal Affairs, who finances community requests for water related infrastructure; and Health and Community Services, who supports water quality monitoring and testing.


3: Water Rights (Mar 13/14)
Newfoundland and Labrador follow the riparian rights doctrine but most bodies of water are owned by the Crown.  There have been few actual cases of riparian rights (Hill et al, 2007).  Under the Water Resources Act (2002), water is allocated to license applicants.  The terms and conditions of licenses are strict, placing the responsibility for monitoring on the licensees (Nowlan, 2005).  Licenses are not tradable.  There is no threshold quantity exemption to the licensing requirement, but licenses are not required for minor riparian alterations/uses or existing rights (until they expire). 

Part I "Water Rights" of the Water Resources Act sets out one of Canada's most comprehensive systems for water use allocation and granting of rights to ensure conservation and proper utilization of water resources and appreciation of its values. Where, concurrently, more than one application for a licence has been made with respect to the use of water from the same body of water, the applications and licences issued shall have priority in the following order: domestic, municipal, agricultural, commercial, institutional and industrial, water and thermal power generation, and other purposes, prescribed by regulation. A comprehensive online registry of water rights is maintained, containing more than 1,800 records (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, n.d.).  Every right holder is required to register.  The registry records the location of the body of water used or diverted, a brief description of the right, as well as cancellations of licences. Part IX of the Water Resources Act sets procedures for offenses and penalties for a person who contravenes the Act, an order made under the Act, or a condition or term of a licence or permit issued under the Act. 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 13/14)
The province has a Policy for Drinking Water Quality Monitoring and Reporting (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Labrador, 2009b).  A geographic information system is also maintained with geographic boundaries of public water supplies and data on protected, unprotected, and potential water supplies (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2004).  In March 2010, the province released a new Water Resources Portal that allows public access to a variety of water resources data including: drinking water quality data and treatment profiles; protection areas for ground and surface water supplies; boil water advisories; ambient water quality data, station profiles and watersheds; real time water quality data; hydrometric station data and station profiles; climate station profiles; dam locations and sewage outfall locations (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2010).

The Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Water Quality Monitoring Agreement (1986) and the Hydrometric Surveys Agreement coordinate federal and provincial ambient water quality and water level and flow monitoring and reporting activities.  There is also annual water reporting requirements for all water use licence holders.  Recent implementation of agricultural water conservation and efficiency measures is setting the stage for water use monitoring and reporting for the agriculture industry. There are no provincial or territorial programs to monitor drinking water or water resources in First Nations communities.


5: Transboundary Issues (Mar 13/14)
N/A

Also, 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 13/14)

Yes.  The Water Resources Act (2002) is used to designate and protect drinking water sources as either: "protected public water-supply areas", also known as surface water supplies, or "protected wellheads", also known as ground water supplies (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2004).  The majority of surface water supplies have been designated protected, and the majority of the population receives its drinking water from protected sources.  Municipalities apply for the designation. 

Under the Water Resources Act, approvals or permits are required to: construct water infrastructure, operate water distribution and water treatment systems, drill a municipal well, and carry out development activities within a designated water supply area.  Drinking water quality must meet the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (Health Canada, 2008).  Every public drinking water system in the province must be issued a Permit to Operate by the Department of Environment and Conservation.  Certified water system operators are encouraged for each water supply system. 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 13/14)
Yes. The Water Resources Act (2002) mandates the province to protect source water. "Source to Tap", the province's multi-barrier strategic action plan (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2001), and the Policy Directive for Land and Water Developments in Protected Water Supply Areas (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1995), function as tools that assist with source water protection.  Drinking water is the legislated top priority use of water in the province.

The report "Management of Protected Water Supply Areas" (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2004) helps communities with the designation and management of water supply areas.  A Municipal Guide to Developing a Watershed Management Plan was developed in 2007 by Natural Resources Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Environment and Conservation as a step-by-step guide to help communities develop a drinking/source water protection plan.  Communities are encouraged to establish source protection committees when there are multiple resource users in a designated water supply area. Source water protection policy does not address protection of First Nations water.

3: Wellfield Protection (Mar 13/14)
The province's Well Drilling Regulations (2003) specify construction and siting of water wells to protect the province's ground water resources.  Ground water used for public drinking water can be designated a protected wellhead (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 1995).  There are 22,000 drilled wells in the province and about same amount of dug wells (Guzwell, 2009).  Approximately 500 new wells are drilled each year (Guzwell, 2009).

4: Groundwater Permitting (Mar 13/14)

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 29% of the population obtains its drinking water from ground water sources (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2005a), with a higher percentage in rural areas (Guzwell, 2009). Part III of the Water Resources Act (2002) and the Well Drilling Regulations (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2003b) deal exclusively with water well drilling.  Other approvals relating to ground water include: permits for constructing non-domestic wells, designation of a protected wellhead area, permits for development activity in a wellhead protected water supply area; and licences for well drillers.  Reports for the sealing of drilled ground water wells are also required.  Various guidelines dealing with different aspects of ground water management have also been developed including guidelines for: disinfecting dug and drilled wells, sealing ground water wells, and ground water supply assessment and reporting for subdivisions.

Annual water use reports on the location, source, amount and purpose of extraction, as well as other impacts on water resources must be submitted each year as a water use license condition.  A public registry of water rights exists, together with an appeals process.  Provincial permitting processes do not apply to Federal lands such as First Nations reserves and communities. 

5: Storm/Waste Water Management (Mar 13/14)
The province's Environmental Control Water and Sewage Regulations (2003a) exist under the Water Resources Act (2002). The Community Water and Wastewater Section reviews the design of municipal wastewater systems, issues permits to construct and operate sewage systems, monitors operations, develops guidelines and policies, and assesses alternative treatment systems.  Guidelines exist for design, construction, and operation of sewerage systems. 

New federal municipal wastewater regulations will be announced at the end of 2009, and the province is developing a municipal wastewater regulatory compliance plan.  Policy regarding the management of stormwater is lacking in the province, which has been identified as a gap and is being addressed.

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


6: Ecosystem Quality Needs (Mar 13/14)
Under new federal regulations for municipal wastewater effluent, the risk level of all outfalls will have to be assessed.  The province is also developing site-specific water quality and effluent objectives.


Water Quantity
1: Water Conservation Strategy (Mar 13/14)
There are enabling provisions within the Water Resources Act (2002) for future conservation management initiatives, permitting the province to enact additional regulations to use economic measures (incentives, royalties, subsidies, administrative fees, and water use charges) for the purposes of ensuring conservation and proper utilization of water resources, and for financing programs. Also, water use licences contain provisions for water conservation and efficiency measures.  In addition, the province recently implemented agricultural water conservation and efficiency measures on pilot basis.  These measures significantly contribute to on-farm water management and sustainability of water resources.  The provincial water use allocation system considers the multi-use concept especially in licences issued for water power generation.

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

Learn more about Newfoundland's conservation initiatives and requirements with the Alliance for Water Efficiency.


2: Ecosystem Quantity Needs (Mar 13/14)
Aquatic ecosystem protection is not legislated for water withdrawals.

3: Interbasin Transfers (Mar 13/14)
Interbasin transfers are permitted, particularly for hydroelectricity (Hill et al., 2007).

Large-scale transfers or removals of water outside of the province are prohibited under the Water Resources Act (2002).  Exceptions include water contained in containers of no more than 30 litres in volume, water used to power a vehicle or to transport food or industrial products, and, upon approval, water removed for a non-commercial use (i.e., humanitarian or safety issue). 


4: Climate Change Linkage (Mar 13/14)
In 2005, a provincial Climate Change Action Plan (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2005b) was developed.  Interministerial research is being conducted on climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation strategies.  This involves monitoring the results from hydrometric, water quality, and climate networks to help determine trends in stream flows, lake levels, rainfall, snowfall, water quality, and flood frequency, to identify vulnerabilities, and to design adaptation strategies.  An inventory is being kept of water uses and permits.  Agricultural water conservation and efficiency measures implemented on a pilot basis have been considered a significant contribution in the province's preparation for adaptation to climate change in water management and the sustainability of its agriculture industry.


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

Environment Canada. (1987).  Federal water policy.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=en&n=D11549FA-1

Environmental Protection Act, S.N.L. 2002, c. E-14.2

Hill, C., Furlong, K., Bakker, K., and Cohen, A. (2007).  A survey of water governance    legislation and policies in the provinces and territories.  In Bakker, K. (Ed.). (2007).  Eau Canada: The future of Canada's water.  Vancouver: UBC Press.

Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (1986).  The Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Water Quality Monitoring Agreement.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/Env/waterres/WQMA/WQMA.asp

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (n.d.).  Registry of water rights. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/Env/waterres/WaterRights/Registry_of_Water_Rights.asp

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2010). Newfoundland and Labrador Water Resources Portal.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://maps.gov.nl.ca/water

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2009a). Speech from the throne.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from www.exec.gov.nl.ca/thronespeech/2009/speech2009.htm#

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2009b). Policy for drinking water quality monitoring and reporting for public water supplies. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             www.env.gov.nl.ca/Env/env/waterres/Policies/PDWR09-1.asp

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2008).  Press release. Drinking water safety initiative unveiled for Newfoundland and Labrador.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2008/env/0509n05.htm

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2005a).  Well aware: A guide for well owners. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/env/waterres/Groundwater/Well_Aware/Well%20Aware%20Book2005.pdf

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2005b).  Climate change action plan.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/Env/policy%20and%20planning/climatechangereport/climatechangeplanfinal.pdf

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2004). Management of protected water supply areas. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/Env/waterres/Surfacewater/Watershed_Protection/Designation_Process_Booklet_Mar26_2004.pdf

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2003a).  Environmental Control Water and Sewage Regulations.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from www.assembly.nl.ca/Legislation/sr/regulations/rc030065.htm

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2003b).  Well Drilling Regulations. Retrieved March 26, 2010 from    http://www.assembly.nl.ca/legislation/sr/annualregs/2003/Nr030063.htm

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2002).  Guide to the Water Resources Act (2002).  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/ActsReg/WRA (2002)guide.pdf

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2001).  Source to tap - Water supplies in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from www.gov.nf.ca/env/SourceToTap/SourceToTap/Report.asp.

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (1995, amended 1999).  Policy for land and water   related developments in protected water supply areas.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/Env/waterres/Policies/PDWR95-01.asp

Guzwell, G.K. (2009).  Activities of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Groundwater Section.  Water Well Workshop, April 7, 2009.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from             http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/Env/waterres/Groundwater/Workshop/2009/1%20-%20Activities%20of%20the%20Groundwater%20Section2009.pdf

Health and Community Services Act, S.N.L. 1995, c. P-37.1

Health Canada (2008).  Guidelines for Canadian drinking water quality.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/alt_formats/hecs-sesc/pdf/pubs/water-eau/sum_guide-res_recom/summary-sommaire-eng.pdf

Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement Act, S.N.L. 2004, c. L-3.1

Municipalities Act, 1999, S.N.L. 1999, c. M-24

Natural Resources Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2007).  A municipal guide to developing a watershed management plan.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from    http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/env/waterres/Surfacewater/Watershed_Protection/SBWMPC_Manual_Final_V1_2_2007.pdf

Nowlan, L. (2005).  Buried treasure: Groundwater permitting and pricing in Canada.  Retrieved March 26, 2010 from http://www.buriedtreasurecanada.org/Buried_Treasure.pdf

Water Resources Act, S.N.L. 2002, c. W-4.01


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

British Columbia

Manitoba

New Brunswick

Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia

Nunavut

Ontario

Prince Edward Island

Québec

Saskatchewan

Yukon


Newfoundland water policy documents

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