Do You Know if You Need a Permit to Take Water?

Posted by on Aug 7, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Do you need a permit to take water (PTTW)?  You might be surprised.  This regulation may apply to your current business activities.  To avoid a potential violation, make sure you understand the PTTW permitting requirements.  Also, as we point out below, document your activities.

When am I required to apply for a PTTW?

In Ontario, under the Ontario Water Resources Act and Ontario Regulation 387/04, you are generally required to have a permit if you are taking 50,000 litres (L) or more of water per day from the environment (including groundwater, lakes, rivers, ponds, etc.).  Unlike other regulations, the PTTW is based on “actual” not “capacity.”  For example, you may have a pump with the “capacity” to pump more than 50,000 L per day, but if you don’t remove more than 50,000 L per day, a PTTW is not needed.

There are exceptions to the PTTW, which include:

  • Fire fighting/emergency use
  • Farm use (excluding irrigation of crops being grown for sale)
  • Domestic use
  • Certain grandfathered operations

If you take water from a storage tank or lined pond, that volume does not “count against” the 50,000 L threshold.

PTTW Permit Types

For those who aren’t exempt, there are three types of PTTW.

PTTW Category 1 ($750 permit fee to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks [MECP]) has the least-stringent guidelines and is used in situations where water taking is unlikely to pose adverse environmental impacts.  It is generally used for existing water takings (i.e., permit renewals with consistent or smaller volume water-taking rates).  No “scientific study” is required.

Used when:

  • Various conditions are met for taking from either groundwater-fed or surface-water-fed ponds.
  • Taking from the Great Lakes at less than 1,000,000 L/day.

PTTW Category 2 ($750 permit fee to the MECP) is used for short-term, non-recurring water taking.  It requires a qualified person (QP) to conduct a technical review of the proposed water taking.*

Conditions for groundwater sources:

  • Short-term, non-recurring taking less than seven days.
  • Short-term, non-recurring taking less than 30 consecutive days and less than 400,000 L/day.

Conditions for surface-water sources:

  • Taking from the Great Lakes at less than 19,000,000 L/day.
  • Taking from sources where previous assessments have been conducted (i.e., use information from a previous study and implement established controls).
  • Taking from one source for a short time and returning to a nearby point with no significant changes to quality/quantity (i.e., for cooling, hydrostatic testing, dredging).
  • Taking less than 1,000,000 L/day twice a week from water bodies greater than 10 hectares in size.
  • Transitional permits – Transitional surface-water permits are issued when an existing “water taker” that has been asked by the Director to implement upgrades or modifications to their water-taking facilities applies for a temporary short-term taking. This would allow them to continue to operate while scientific studies are being finalized and improvement works are being implemented.
  • Taking less than 5% from rivers and streams with a seven-day flow with a 20-year return period.

In some situations, you may be able to register prescribed water-taking activities in the MECP Environmental Activity and Sector Registry (EASR) instead of obtaining a PTTW.  For instance, the following two construction activities must be registered in the EASR.

  • Site dewatering involving more than 50,000 L/day and less than 400,000 L/day.
  • Surface-water takings exceeding 50,000 L/day for road construction purposes that meet specified criteria about the purpose, rate, or location of the water taking.

PTTW Category 3 ($3,000 permit fee to MECP) is the most stringent and is used for groundwater and surface-water takings that do not meet Category 1 or Category 2 criteria or new takings from first-order or second-order water sources considered to be headwater streams (ephemeral [where flow is based on precipitation] or intermittent [where flow occurs when the water table rises]).  It requires a QP to conduct a technical assessment of the proposed water taking.*

A pre-submission consultation with the MECP is necessary to discuss the proposed water taking and the details of the the activity.  The licenced professional needs to justify that the water taking will not have any adverse affects on other parties or the natural environment.  This usually requires a pump test, collection of observation data, and a report with an interpretation/opinion.

If the water taking is a lesser amount (e.g., 50,000 L to 100,000 L per day), the MECP may accept an alternative assessment on a case-by-case basis.  A qualified professional can conduct a “desktop study” and use readily-available data and information to justify the proposed taking.  If appropriate, the professional may “argue” that adverse impacts are not likely because the water withdrawal is small, the aquifer has a large capacity, and other wells or the natural environment are at a significant distance.  If the desktop study is not deemed adequate, the MECP would outline what concerns need further assessment, which could include a pump test.

Do you need a permit to take water? Make sure you understand the requirements for water taking in Ontario.

Does My PTTW Expire?

PTTWs are issued with expiry dates.  It is important to renew before the expiry date to ensure continued water taking.  Expired permits for certain purposes (including beverage manufacturing, ready-mix concrete, aggregate processing, etc.) can be significantly more challenging to renew.

Daily water-taking volumes must be recorded and submitted annually to the MECP’s online Water Taking and Reporting System.

Can I use conservation practices or engineering controls to eliminate the need for a PTTW?

Yes.  If you exceed 50,000 L/day only “a few times per year,” you can store additional water in a small lined pond or tank.  This option allows you to fill a lined pond or tank with “surplus” water on those days that you aren’t using water for other purposes.  Another option is to schedule your water taking over several days to avoid the 50,000 L threshold.

Hopefully this information is helpful to guide you regarding your PTTW questions for your business.  Remember that record keeping and documentation are critical to show that you don’t need a PTTW (less than 50,000 L per day).  If you are actually taking more than 50,000 L per day, we can evaluate your data and provide advice on which path you should take.

For more information, you can contact me at 519-979-7300, Ext 137.

* The technical assessment must be conducted by a licensed professional geoscientist or “accepted” professional engineer.  For surface-water studies, a professional engineer or a person with a degree in environmental science with specialization in hydrology, aquatic ecology, limnology, biology, physical geography, and/or water resource management must conduct the assessment.