Rural Water Resources Planner: Provincial Departments and Municipal Agencies
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Provincial Departments and Municipal Agencies

The provincial governments and the Yukon have the primary jurisdiction over most areas of water management and protection. The federal government has responsibilites for managing water in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

In many cases provincial authority for certain aspects of water regulation have been delegated to municipalities, especially the drinking water treatment and distribution and wastewater treatment operations of urban areas. Some water resource management functions may also be delegated to local authorities that may be responsible for a particular area or river basin.

Major uses of water in Canada are generally permitted or licensed under provincial water management authorities. Licensing of the water withdrawal from a source that originates and stays within a province falls under the constitutional authority of that province. Licensing requirements for a water withdrawal vary from province to province and the provincial agencies responsible for licensing should be contacted. 

Approval under various federal and provincial regulatory acts is required prior to undertaking construction activities in any water body or diverting surface or groundwater for use.

All provinces also have acts and regulations that address water quality issues. The regulations relate to water and sewage treatment, well construction and testing, protection of watersheds, alteration to water courses, wetland protection and drainage activities. There are also regulations on other activities that, although not directly connected to water, can have an impact on water quality (e.g. storage of pesticides, fuels, manure etc).

The following menu links to information on the typical responsibilities of key provincial government departments and to provincial information on legislation, and the licensing and approval process.



Typical Responsibilities of Key Provincial Departments

Similar to the federal government, there are many provincial departments and agencies that have some vested interest or are involved in water management activities. As well, the primary responsibilities for water resource management typically rest within key provincial departments: environment, health, natural resources, agriculture, and water/watershed agencies.

Provincial Environment Ministries

In the early 1970's the provinces responded to increased public concern for the environment and the creation of the federal Environment Canada in 1971, by creating their own ministries of the environment.

Today the provincial environment departments play a critical role in protection of water resources and granting water licenses in some provinces. The provision of safe drinking water supplies is delegated to local municipal governments but provincial Environment departments retain the legislative responsibility to ensure that local municipalities (including towns and cities) deliver safe drinking water to citizens.

Provincial Health Ministries

"Provincial Health departments are responsible for health programming and safeguarding the health of provincial citizens, including the prevention of waterborne diseases. In the event of municipal water quality problems that threaten the safety of drinking water, provincial health departments take actions to safeguard public health of the affected communities." 1

Provincial Natural Resources Ministries

Provincial natural resources departments are generally involved in the development of the natural resources (e.g. minerals, pertroleum, forestry, fisheries) and their commercial use.

Provincial Agriculture Ministries

Provincial agricultural departments are involved in providing assistance and programming to help the agricultural sector and rural economies maintain profitability and sustainability.

Provincial Water/Watershed Agencies

"Provincial Watershed Authorities, Offices of Drinking Water, Water Services Boards or Corporations, Clean Water Agencies (names and functions vary) are generally unique to each province. Many of these provincial departments or agencies have either been created or modified to address water quality issues that were identified by two recent, and serious, waterborne disease outbreaks in Canada. Provincial watershed agencies are generally designed to facilitate watershed and integrated water resource management activities. Provincial water boards or corporations are generally designed to develop, operate and maintain water supply infrastructure, often delivering water to rural regions or smaller communities with regional distribution in mind." 1

Municipal Government

"Other levels of local government such as municipalities also have a role in water management. Water and wastewater distribution and treatment systems are typically owned and operated by municipal or local governments (i.e. communities). Local by-laws often impact water management in areas such as water conservation, land use approvals, industrial and municipal solid and liquid waste disposal, etc. Rural municipalities are often involved in water projects. Throughout the prairies, many tank loading facilities are constructed by rural municipalities. These are untreated water supplies where clients (e.g. farmers) may collect water in large tanks, and haul water by truck for storage and use on farms." 1

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Provincial Links

Click on a province to access links to the provincial legislation information and the licensing and approval process.

Select a province or territory from the map below or choose one of the provinces from the list below Nunavut New Brunswick Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island Newfoundland and Labrador Quebec Ontario Manitoba Saskatchewan Alberta British Columbia Yukon Northwest Territories

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Alberta

Ministries:

Acts and Regulations

Alberta Environment is responsible for the management and protection of Alberta's water and ensuring that development occurs in a responsible manner under the legislative authority of the Water Act and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. The department's Legislation and Legislation (drinking water) webpages provide additional information on water-related Regulations, Standards and Guidelines, Codes of Practice and links to the water allocation and licensing process.

Some of the main provincial water-related legislation includes:

  • Water Act (2000)
  • Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (2000)
  • Alberta Land Stewardship Act (2009)
  • Energy Resources Conservation Act (2000)
  • Irrigation Districts Act (2000)
  • Municipal Government Act (2000)
  • Public Health Act (2000)
  • Public Utilities Board Act (2000)
  • Public Lands Act (2000)

Licensing

Alberta Environment is primarily responsible for water allocation and licensing as described on its Water Act: Allocation of Water and Water Allocation webpages.

The relative amounts of river basin water that have been allocated to a type of use, is provided on the Sector Water Allocations webpage. 

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British Columbia:

Ministries:
Acts and Regulations

Water management is the responsibility of the Water Stewardship Division of the Ministry of the Environment. An overview and access to the provincial water legislation is provided on it's Water Rights and Legislation webpage.

Some of the main provincial water-related legislation includes:
  • Water Act (1996)
  • Water Protection Act (1996)
  • Drinking Water Protection Act (2001)
  • Environmental Management Act (2003)
  • Dike Maintenance Act (1996)
  • Drainage, Ditch and Dike Act (1996)
  • Environmental Assessment Act (2002)
  • Fish Protection Act (1997)
  • Water Utility Act (1996)
Licensing
The Water Stewardship Division of the Ministry of the Environment is primarily responsible for water allocation and licensing. Their Water License Application and Approval Forms webpage describes the process and provides access to the application documents.

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Manitoba:

Ministries:

Acts and Regulations

Manitoba Water Stewardship is responsible for regulating water activities including water quality, fisheries, groundwater and water use and licensing. The legislation under the department's authority is detailed on its Acts and Regulations webpage.

Some of the main provincial water-related legislation includes:
  • Water Protection Act (2006)
  • Drinking Water Safety Act (2008)
  • Manitoba Environment Act (1996)
  • Water Rights Act (2006)
  • Public Health Act (2006)
  • Water Supply Commissions Act (1997)
  • Water Resources Conservation and Protection Act (2006)
  • Groundwater and Water Well Act (2008)
Licensing

Manitoba Water Stewardship is responsible for water allocation and licensing. Information on licensing of water use, control works and drainage is provided on the departments's Licensing, Regulation and Policy webpage.


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New Brunswick:

Ministries:
Acts and Regulations

The Department of the Environment is responsible for the regulation of water activities under the authority of The Clean Water Act. A description of all the legislation administered by the department is provided on the their An overview of Legislation- Department of Environment webpage.

A list of Acts administered by the various government departments can be accessed on the Attorney General's List of Acts by Department webpage.


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Newfoundland & Labrador:

Ministries:
Acts and Regulations

The Water Resources Management Division of the Department of Environment and Conservation is responsible for water management in Newfoundland and Labrador.  A list of legislation that falls under the departments's authority is provided on its Acts, Regulations, Policy Directives and Water Quality Standards webpage.

Some of the main provincial water legislation includes:
  • Water Resources Act (2002)
Licensing

Application Forms, Fee Schedules and Guidelines for environmental permits for an alteration to a water body, permits for surface and groundwater development activities and water use allocation permits are available at the Department of Environment and Conservation Application Forms, Fee Schedules and Guidelines webpage.

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Northwest Territories:

Ministries
Acts and Regulations

The federal Crown has ownership of the water and natural resources in the Northwest Territories. The federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has responsibility for managing and regulating the water resources of the Northwest Territories (NWT). The applicable legislation is described on the department's Water Management webpage. 

Some of the main water legislation includes:

  • Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act
  • Northwest Territories Waters Act (1992)
  • Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (1998)
  • Environmental Protection Act (1988)
  • Environmental Rights Act (1988)
  • Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act (2003)

Licensing

A number of water boards are responsible for issuing water use licenses in various areas of NWT. These Boards were created under the Northwest Territories Waters Act (1992) and Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (1998).

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Nova Scotia:

Ministries

Acts and Regulations

Management of the province's water resources is primarily under the authority of Nova Scotia Environment. Legislation under its authority is provided on the Legislation webpage.

Some of the main provincial water-related legislation includes:

  • Environment Act (1995)
  • Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (2007)
  • Municipal Government Act (1998)
Licensing

Information on water use licensing is provided on Nova Scotia Environment's Application Requirements For Water Withdrawal Approvals webpage.

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Nunavut:

Ministries
Acts and Regulations

The federal Crown has ownership of the water and natural resources in the Northwest Territories (NWT). The federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) has responsibility for managing and regulating the water resources of the NWT. The applicable legislation is described on the department's Water Management webpage. 

Some of the main water legislation includes:

  • Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act
  • Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act (2002)
  • Northern Inland Waters Act (1985)
  • Northwest Territories Waters Act (1992)
  • Public Utilities Act (1999)

Licensing

The Nunavut Water Board (NWB) is an Institution of of Public Government that operates at arm's length from government and has responsibilities and powers over the management, use and regulation of inland water in the Nunavut Settlement Area. Its  powers and responsibilities are described on the Board's Legislation webpage. Water licensing information is available on the License Application webpage.

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Ontario:

Ministries

Acts and Regulations

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the protection of drinking water and fresh water resources in Ontario and the legislation that falls under its authority is described on its Legislation webpage.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is responsible for the management of the provincial water resources under the authority described on its Legislation, Regulations and Provincial Policies webpage.

Some of the main provincial water legislation includes:
  • Water Opportunities Act (2010)
  • Clean Water Act (2006)
  • Ontario Water Resources Act (1990)
  • Safe Drinking Water Act (2002)
  • Safeguarding And Sustaining Ontario's Water Act (2007)
Licensing

The water licensing process is described on the Ministry of Environment's Permits to Take Water webpage.

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Prince Edward Island:

Ministries
Acts and Regulations

The Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry is responsible for the management and protection of the province's water resources (drinking water, ground water, inland surface water and coastal estuaries) under the authority of the legislation described on its Legislation webpage.

Some of the main provincial water-related legislation includes:
  • Environmental Protection Act (1988)
  • Water and Sewerage Act (2003)
  • Water Wells Act (2004)
  • PEI Fisheries Act (2009)
  • Planning Act (2009)
  • Pesticides Control Act
Licensing

Water licensing information is described on the Licences and Permits webpage of  The Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry.

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Quebec:

Ministries

Acts and Regulations

Some of the main provincial water-related legislation includes:
  • Loi affirmant le caractère collectif des ressources en eau et visant à renforcer leur protection (2009) (Act to Affirm the Collective Nature of Water Resources and to Reinforce their Protection)
  • Règlement sur la qualité de l'eau potable (2001) (Regulation on Potable Water Quality)
  • Loi sur la qualité de l'environnement (1972) (Environmental Quality Act)

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Saskatchewan:

Ministries
Acts and Regulations

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority leads the management of the provinces water resources under the authority of the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority Act, 2005.

Some of the other main provincial water-related legislation includes:

  • Water Power Act (2005)
  • Conservation and Development Act (2006)
  • Watershed Associations Act (2006)
  • Water Appeal Board Act (2005)
  • Saskatchewan Water Corporation Act (2006)
  • Environmental Management and Protection Act (2007)

The above legislation can be accessed from the Freelaw Publications webpage of the Queens Printer.

Licensing

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is responsible for approving and licensing water use projects. The applicable forms can be accessed on their Regulatory Forms webpage.

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Yukon Territories:

Ministries
Acts and Regulations

The Water Resources webpage of Environment Yukon details the legislation that guides water use and deposition of waste. The legislation can be accessed from the Department of Justice Acts and Regulations webpage and the Government of Yukon Welcome to the Yukon Legislation Website.

Some of the territorial water related legislation includes:

  • Waters Act (2003)
  • Public Health and Safety Act (2002)
  • Environment Act (2002)

Licensing

The Yukon Water Board, an independent administrative tribunal established under the Waters Act (2003), is responsible for allocation and licensing water use and deposition of waste into water. Information on licensing is available on the Board's Policy, Rules, Guidelines, Info. Sheets & Compensation webpage.

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1. This description has been extracted from a paper entitled The Case of Canada - Institutions and Water in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, February 2007. Authors: Darrell R. Corkal, Bruce Inch and Philip E. Adkins, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada - Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration