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The Living Water Policy Project
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Québec Water Policy Data


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The Politique nationale de l'eau (national water policy) was introduced by the Government of Québec in 2002.  This policy outlined a vast set of goals for reforming the management of water resources in the province of Québec and the actions proposed by the government to achieve those goals. A great deal of progress has been made in the reform of water governance through the implementation of watershed-based management, both for the St-Lawrence River and 40 tributary watersheds, and the improvement of collection and accessibility of water data through the recent creation of the Bureau des connaissances sur l'eau 

The Quebec Government has renewed the Canada-Quebec Agreement on the St. Lawrence from 2-11 - 2026.

Bill 71 was passed in May, 2012, an Act requiring wetland compensation for projects effecting wetlands.   


Québec water policy photo essay

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

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Basic Introduction
1: Central Water Legislation (Mar 13/14)
Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection (the Act to Declare the Common Nature of Water Resources and to Reinforce their Protection) was adopted in 2009. This law confirms the legal status of water as a common resource of the people of Québec and specifies the responsibilities of the province-guardian of the resource on behalf of the people-and the rights and responsibilities of the collective. This act makes possible the introduction of a permitting system for large (>75,000 litres per day) water takings, and creates a Bureau de connaissances sur l'eau (Water Information Office) within the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks).

Loi sur la qualité de l'environnement (Environmental Quality Act), adopted in 1972, was last modified in 2009. The objective of the Act is to protect the quality of the natural environment, prevent pollution and encourage environmental remediation.

Règlement sur la qualité de l'eau potable (Regulation on Potable Water Quality) was adopted in 2001 and was last modified in 2008. This regulation prescribes standards for potable water quality. The Sustainable Development Act (2006) is to establish a new management framework within the Administration to ensure that powers and responsibilities are exercised in the pursuit of sustainable development.  


2: Key Ministries & Departments (Mar 13/14)
The Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks) is the primary department in Québec responsible for managing water resources.  This department has a mandate to protect the environment and natural ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. The department's main objective is to promote sustainable development and, in keeping with that responsibility, it aims to keep the environment healthy within the confines of economic development and social progress.

Other ministries that manage aspects of water include the: Ministère des resources naturelles et de la faune (Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife), which manages water resources and the use and management of public lands; Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux (Ministry of Health and Social Services), which manages surveillance of water quality for bathing and consumption and the regulation of certain food products; Ministère de l'agriculture, pêcheries et alimentation (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), which manages fishing rights and surveillance of agricultural activities; and the Ministère des affaires municipales, des régions et de l'occupation du territoire (Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Regions and Territorial Occupation), which manages wastewater treatment and land use.
3: Water Rights (Mar 13/14)

Surface and groundwater resources are considered a collective good for the people of Québec. In accordance with the Civil Code of Québec (1991), the right to their use is common to all. According to the Civil Code (1991), the status of collective good implies that all persons have the right to access and the use of water. The state has the responsibility to regulate the uses of water, to establish choices concerning its use, and to protect the quality and quantity of the resource for the common good.

The recent Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection (Act to Declare the Common Nature of Water Resources and to Reinforce their Protection), adopted in 2009, reaffirms the collective nature of water resources and establishes a permitting system for water taking. This law requires an authorization from the Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks) for water takings of 75,000 litres per day or more, and, in certain cases prescribed by the law, for water takings of less than 75,000 litres per day. Permits are valid for 10 years, except if the minister considers a shorter or longer period to be in the public interest or in other cases where the period is fixed by a regulation (Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs , 2002).  Existing water takings will be automatically authorized. This law also accords the minister and the government the power to limit or halt any water taking that presents a serious risk to public health or to aquatic ecosystems, without compensation. 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 collects data and monitors wastewater treatment levels, wastewater bypass, potable water quality and water quantity at designated bathing areas (i.e., beach front). The Programme d’acquisition de connaissances sur les eaux souterraines du Québec (Program to Acquire Understanding of Groundwater in Québec) aims to develop a practical and realistic picture of groundwater resources found within municipalities in southern Québec, with the goal of protecting said resources and ensuring their sustainability (Québec, Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs, 2008).

A Bureau de connaissances sur l’eau (Water Information Office) was recently created under the Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection (Act to Declare the Common Nature of Water Resources and to Reinforce their Protection), adopted 2009, within the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks). The Office is responsible for communicating and sharing key environmental information related to water management.

 

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

5: Transboundary Issues (Mar 13/14)

Québec, Ontario, and the eight Great Lakes States are signatory to the 1985 Great Lakes Charter, the 2001 Great Lakes Charter Annex, and the 2005 agreements. The Great Lakes Charter and the Great Lakes Charter Annex were developed by Ontario, Québec, and the eight Great Lakes states to protect the water resources of the Great Lakes Basin for current and future generations. To carry out the commitments in the Great Lakes Charter Annex, two agreements were developed: the Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement (a non-binding, good-faith agreement among the two provinces and eight states) and the Great Lakes Basin Water Resources Compact (a binding agreement among the eight Great Lakes states). As part of the implementation of the Great Lakes Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, Québec has adopted the Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection (Act to Declare the Common Nature of Water Resources and to Reinforce their Protection), adopted in 2009, which prohibits water transfers from the St. Lawrence basin outside of Québec.

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)

The Règlement sur la qualité de l'eau potable (Regulation on Potable Water Quality), adopted in 2001, stipulates that water for human consumption must respect the potable water quality standards defined in Annex 1 of the regulation. The regulation applies to all municipal, private, and institutional water systems, as well as water systems at tourist establishments that serve more than 20 people.

The Règlement sur la qualité de l'eau potable (Potable Water Quality Regulation), adopted in 2001, establishes operator certification standards. Municipalities are responsible for potable water services for their inhabitants. In most cases, water infrastructure is owned and operated by the municipality, although some private systems exist, mostly in small towns, and in a few cases private firms have been contracted to undertake maintenance of water or sewer systems in larger municipalities. 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)
There is no policy that specifically addresses source water protection. However, the watershed-based approach to management of water resources is intended to improve protection of surface water quality and quantity. Protection of groundwater sources is addressed by the Regulation on the Use of Groundwater, adopted in 2002 (see section on well water).

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

3: Wellfield Protection (Mar 13/14)

The objective of the Règlement sur le captage des eaux souterraines (Regulation on the Use of Groundwater), adopted in 2002, is to protect groundwater for human consumption, avoid over-pumping of groundwater, and minimize negative impacts of groundwater pumping on water courses, water bodies, and the human uses and ecosystems that depend on them. The regulation specifies that the local or regional municipality where the well is to be dug must authorize the digging of any well. Any project to pump groundwater at a rate of 75 cubic metres per day or more must be authorized by the Ministère du dévelopement durable, de l’environnement et des parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks), and the request for authorization must include, among other information, the proposed use of the water and the monthly flow. Ministerial authorizations are granted for a maximal period of 10 years, except those for potable water supply (Ministère du développement durable, de l’environnement et des parcs , 2002).  Demands for renewal of authorization must be accompanied by a report from a professional engineer or geologist attesting that the impact on the environment and other users remain unchanged or, in the case that the impacts have changed, a hydrogeological report concerning these changes must be provided.

 

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

4: Groundwater Permitting (Mar 13/14)

The Règlement sur le captage des eaux souterraines (Regulation on the Extraction of Groundwater), adopted in 2002, sets minimum distances from wastewater treatment systems, agricultural production, lands on which fertilizers are spread, and limits the possibility to dig a well on a floodplain. An area extending 30 metres from the well must be designated as an area of protection of the groundwater resource. Municipalities must also determine the recharge zone and the bacteriological and virological protection zones (defined in the regulation), and must assess the level of vulnerability of the well to contamination. Certain activities are restricted within the protected areas if the groundwater is considered to be highly vulnerable. 

5: Storm/Waste Water Management (Mar 13/14)

There is no formal wastewater management policy; however, government programs and regulations since the 1970s have aimed at extending wastewater treatment to the majority of industrial and municipal sources. The Règlement sur les fabriques de pâtes et papiers (Regulation Concerning the Pulp and Paper Producers), which was adopted in 1979 and was last modified in 1992; the Règlement sur les effluents liquides des raffineries de pétrole (Regulation Concerning Liquid Effluents from Petroleum Refineries), adopted in 1977; and the Directive sur l'industrie minière (Mining Industry Directive), adopted in 1989, set certain standards for the quality of effluent from pulp and paper factories, petroleum refineries, and mining operations, respectively.

The Programme d'assainissement des eaux du Québec (Québec Wastewater Treatment Program), the Programme de réduction des rejets industriels (Industrial Wastewater Reduction Program), and the Plan d'action Saint-Laurent (St. Lawrence Action Plan) have also contributed to the improvement of the quality of industrial effluents. Municipal wastewater treatment facilities are required to meet certain discharge requirements set by the Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs (Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks). The Politique nationale de l'eau (Québec Water Policy), published in 2002, aims to reduce the frequency of wastewater bypass, increase the practice of disinfecting wastewater effluent and, extend wastewater treatment to small municipalities. Currently the program Les eaux vives du Québec (Whitewater Québec) provides financial assistance to small municipalities (5,000 inhabitants and less) to put in place sewer and wastewater treatment infrastructure (Gouvernement du Québec,2009). Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities. 

6: Ecosystem Quality Needs (Mar 13/14)

Several regulations exist that aim to protect aquatic ecosystems from wastes and runoff, such as the Règlement sur l'évacuation et le traitement des eaux usées des résidences isolées (Regulation on Evacuation and Treatment of Wastewater from Isolated Residences), adopted in 1981 and last modified in 2008, and the Règlement sur les exploitations agricoles (Regulation on Agricultural Operations), adopted in 2002 and last modified in 2007. Furthermore, the Loi sur la qualité de l'environnement (Environmental Quality Act),which was adopted in 2001 and last modified in 2008, gives the government the ability to put in place regulations to set water quality standards for all types of outflow.

There are also policies that address the protection of aquatic ecosystems, such as the Politique de protection des rives, du littoral et des plaines inondables (Policy to Protect Shorelines, Coasts and Floodplains), adopted in 2005 and modified in 2008, and the Politique national de l'eau (Québec Water Policy). 

Water Quantity
1: Water Conservation Strategy (Mar 13/14)

The Politique nationale de l'eau (Québec Water Policy), introduced in 2002, proposed the development of a Québec strategy for drinking water conservation that would make the allocation of any financial assistance to municipalities contingent on their adoption of measures to conserve water and reduce leakage. 

In March, 2011 the Stratégie Québécoise d'économie d'eau Potable (Quebec Strategy for Water Use Efficiency) was released and has two central goal: Reduce by 20% average production of water per person for all of Quebec; and reduce the leakage rate for all water systems in up to 20% of the volume of water distribute.   Under the Environmental Quality Act  (2009), the Regulation respecting the charges payable for the use of water establishes charges for the use of water, whether it comes from a distribution system or is taken directly from surface water or groundwater. Provincial or territorial policies and strategies do not apply or include First Nations reserves or communities. Learn more about Québec conservation initiatives and requirements with the Alliance for Water Efficiency

2: Ecosystem Quantity Needs (Mar 13/14)

The Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection (Act to Declare the Common Nature of Water Resources and to Reinforce their Protection), adopted in 2009, places a priority on satisfying the water needs of the population, and subsequently, reconciling ecosystem needs and economic uses of water,  but there is yet a mechanism to implement this priority. 

3: Interbasin Transfers (Mar 13/14)
The Loi visant la préservation des ressources en eau (Preservation of Water Resources Act), adopted in 1999 and last modified in 2001, prohibits the transfer of water outside of Québec, with several significant exceptions: hydroelectric energy production, water that is bottled in Québec and then exported (as long as it is in bottles of 20 litres or less), water supplied to neighboring communities, and water that is used for vehicles such as ships and airplanes.

The Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection (Act to Declare the Common Nature of Water Resources and to Reinforce their Protection), adopted in 2009, prohibits interbasin water transfers from part of the St. Lawrence River basin (portion west of Bécancour). This prohibition does not apply to water that is bottled in Québec and then exported (as long as it is in bottles of 20 litres or less), water that is used in the fabrication of products for export, water that is used for vehicles such as ships and airplanes or water used in cases of emergency or for humanitarian or civil security reasons. The government, if considered in the public's best interest, can also lift the prohibition, but the government is obligated to consult the public.

In an effort to implement Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, there is a regulation prohibiting the transfer of water out of the basin and provides a framework for exceptions that exclusively relate to municipalities that lie on a watershed divide or that are located outside of the basin but fall within a regional county municipality that sits on both sides of the same divide. 



4: Climate Change Linkage (Mar 13/14)
The Plan d'action 2006-2012 sur les changements climatiques (Climate Change Action Plan 2006-2012), created 2008 outlines the government's intention to develop hydrological models of highly populated watersheds in the province in order to test different climate change scenarios to better understand the potential impacts and potential adaptation responses (Government of Québec, 2008). 



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

Civil Code of Québec, S.Q. 1991, c. 64

Centre d'expertise hydrique du Québec. http://www.cehq.gouv.qc.ca/index.asp

Commission municipale du Québec. Tribunal administratif - Tarif de vente d'eau ou du service d'égout. http://www.cmq.gouv.qc.ca/fr/fenetres-informations/13-trib-admin-tarif-eau-egout.php

Council of Great Lakes Governors. (2001). The Great Lakes Charter Annex: A Supplementary Agreement to The Great Lakes Charter. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.cglg.org/projects/water/docs/GreatLakesCharterAnnex.pdf

Environment Canada (1987). Federal water policy. Retrieved March 23rd, 2010, from http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=en&n=D11549FA-1

Environment Canada. (n.d.). Introduction: Great Lakes Charter Annex Implementing Agreements.http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/tabid/4054/Default.aspx

Gouvernement du Québec. (2010). Politique nationale de l'eau. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from, http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/eau/politique/politique-integral.pdf

Government of Québec. (2008). Québec and Climate Change:  A Challenge for the Future.  Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/changements/plan_action/2006-2012_en.pdf

Gouvernement du Québec (2009). Programme Les eaux vives du Québec: assainissement des eaux usées et gestion des boues. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from    http://www.formulaire.gouv.qc.ca/cgi/affiche_doc.cgi?dossier=5489&table=0

Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur   protection (L.R.Q, c. C-6.2)

Loi sur la qualité de l'environnement (L.R.Q., c. Q-2)

Loi sur la sécurité des barrages (L.R.Q., c. S-3.1.01)

Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs. (2002). La gestion  des prélèvements d'eau. Retrieved March 29, 2010 from http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/eau/prelevements/index.htm

Ministère des ressources naturelles et de la faune. (1999). Politique de Débits Réservés Écologiques pour la Protection du Poisson et ses Habitats. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.mrnf.gouv.qc.ca/publications/faune/poli_debits_reserves.pdf

Ministère des ressources naturelles et de la faune. (2007). Stratégie énergétique du Québec. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.mrnf.gouv.qc.ca/energie/strategie/

Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs. (2009). Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/eau/protection/index.htm

Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs. (2008). Plan d'action 2006-2012 sur les changements climatiques. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/changements/plan_action/index-mesures.htm

Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs. (2009). Programme d'acquisition de connaissances des eaux souterraines. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from            http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/eau/souterraines/programmes/acquisition-connaissance.htm

Ministère du développement durable, de l'environnement et des parcs. (2008). Règlement sur la qualité de l'eau potable. Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.mddep.gouv.qc.ca/eau/potable/brochure/index.htm

Règlement sur la qualité de l'eau potable (R.Q., c. Q-2, r.18.1.1)

Québec, Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (2008). Programme  d'acquisition de connaissances sur les eaux souterraines du québec guide du demandeur Retrieved March 30, 2010 from http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CAYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mddep.gouv.qc.ca%2Feau%2Fsouterraines%2Fprogrammes%2Facquisition-connaissance-guide-demandeur.pdf&ei=rHvSS53EM4O2swOB-Ln_Cw&usg=AFQjCNGRLGxdA6BDX1Rv2hCuP9XvwgO37g&sig2=YAK5PMDfJ1epx_U9P6Nsng

Règlement sur le captage des eaux souterraines (R.Q., c. Q-2, r.5.1)

Règlement sur les exploitations agricoles (R.R.Q., c. Q-2, r.11.1)

Règlement sur l'évacuation et le traitement des eaux usées des résidences isolées (R.Q., c. Q-2, r.8)

Stratégies Saint-Laurent. (2007). Gestion intégrée du Saint-Laurent. Retrieved March 30,  2010 from http://www.strategiessl.qc.ca/gisl.html

Sustainable Development Act, R.S.Q. c. D-8.1.1

 

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