Trew or False? Do trade agreements threaten our water systems?

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Council of Canadians campaigner Stuart Trew is warning that a free trade agreement between Canada and Europe would threaten Canada’s municipal water systems. The proposed Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, he claims, would lock in bad deals with private water service providers and lock out regulatory improvements. Mr. Trew’s claims are false. Continue reading

Drummond Report calls for full-cost water pricing

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The Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services – chaired by economist Don Drummond – is calling for full-cost pricing for municipal water and wastewater services. The Commission also gives a nod to the private financing of municipal infrastructure. Continue reading

Support for public-private partnerships grows

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According to a recent poll, two-thirds of Canadians support public-private partnerships (P3s) for water treatment and sewage facilities. These numbers are up considerably from last year. Continue reading

Environmental Commissioner renews call for full-cost water pricing

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The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is once again calling on the Ontario government to promote the full-cost pricing of water. In his Annual Report for 2010/2011, released last week, the ECO argues that water charges should be levied to promote conservation, pay for municipal infrastructure, and cover the province’s costs of managing the resource. Continue reading

Round Table recommends charging industry for water

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The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has released Charting a Course: Sustainable Water Use by Canada’s Natural Resource Sectors. The report calls for new approaches to managing water use by the energy, mining, forest, and agriculture sectors – the country’s biggest water users. Continue reading

Liability limits: lessons from the BP oil spill

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One year ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 crew members and sending more than four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Although drilling in the Gulf’s deep waters is resuming, the law limiting oil companies’ liability for the damage they cause has yet to be changed. Until lawmakers eliminate the liability cap, oil companies will lack full incentives to prevent future disasters, and will be ill-equipped to deal with them should they occur. Continue reading

Canadians’ contradictory water attitudes

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A new survey of Canadians’ attitudes toward water reveals deep concerns about both water quality and water quantity. It also exposes a dangerous reluctance to address these issues if doing so means paying more for water or wastewater infrastructure or services. Continue reading

Drinking water: no place for complacency

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In Safe Drinking Water Policy for Canada, Steve Hrudey warns against complacency among the operators and regulators of water systems. He argues for an approach to water safety that involves “ongoing critical self-examination” — a far cry from the approach here in Ontario. Continue reading

Drinking water still not safe: study

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In a new study, drinking water expert Steve Hrudey warns that many Canadian water systems remain unsafe. More than a decade after the Walkerton tragedy, Hrudey reports, Canada remains “vulnerable to future water-quality failures, most likely in smaller systems. The problem is not that numerical water safety criteria are inadequately stringent; the documented failures have been caused by an inability to operate water systems effectively, pointing to inadequate competence.” Continue reading

Polluting pays off

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A dairy farmer who has been polluting Ontario’s Lake Simcoe has hit the jackpot, winning a grant of $99,950 to construct and maintain a concrete tank to store manure from his 55-cow milking herd. Environment Canada explained that the project will significantly reduce the levels of phosphorus and other nutrients entering the watershed. It didn’t explain why it chose to reward a major polluter with a grant, rather than slapping him with a fine — why, in other words, it administers a system of “polluter gets” rather than “polluter pays.” Continue reading

Rose-coloured glasses … of drinking water

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Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector is looking at municipal drinking water systems through rose-coloured glasses. In his latest annual report, John Stager boasts that he is "proud" of the systems’ performance. He explains, "We found that 49 per cent of these systems achieved a 100 per cent inspection rating, which means that they were in full compliance with the regulations." The guardian of our drinking water should be alarmed – not proud – that more than half of our 700 municipal water systems violate provincial regulations.

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National Round Table warns of water scarcity

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In a new report, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy examines the water use of Canada’s energy, agriculture, mining, and forest sectors, which together account for the great bulk of the country’s water use. It also looks at the importance of water to our ecosystems. The report warns that Canada is facing a looming scarcity challenge.

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Upgrading sewage facilities: Who should pay?

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Brace yourself for a debate over who will pay for the sewage treatment upgrades required under the proposed federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. The federal government quite rightly expects municipalities to pay to upgrade their systems. But municipalities insist they cannot absorb new treatment expenses on their own.
 

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Proposed sewage regulations: Advance or retreat?

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The federal government is proposing regulating wastewater systems effluent under the Fisheries Act. The proposed regulations, in permitting specified amounts of four deleterious substances in wastewater effluents, may authorize discharges that were previously forbidden under the act. They may signify a relaxing of standards, rather than a toughening of standards.

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