An Act to affirm the collective nature of water resources and provide for increased water resource protection

Link to law: http://www2.publicationsduquebec.gouv.qc.ca/dynamicSearch/telecharge.php?type=2&file=/C_6_2/C6_2_A.html
Published: 2015-11-01

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chapter C-6.2

An Act to affirm the collective nature of water resources and provide for increased water resource protection

Preamble.

AS water is indispensable to life and is a vulnerable and exhaustible resource;

AS water resources are part of the common heritage of the Québec nation, and it is important to preserve water and improve water management to meet the needs of present and future generations;

AS water is for everyone's use and must be accessible in the quantity and quality required to meet every individual's essential needs;

AS the State, as custodian of the interests of the nation in water resources, must be vested with the powers required to protect and manage those resources;

AS the funds required for water governance must be made available to the State through such measures as the establishment of royalties for water, management, use and sanitation;

AS, on 13 December 2005, Québec, Ontario and eight U.S. Great Lake states signed the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement, which was approved by the National Assembly on 30 November 2006, and it is important to amend the Environment Quality Act (chapter Q-2) to ensure the implementation of the Agreement;

THE PARLIAMENT OF QUÉBEC ENACTS AS FOLLOWS:

DIVISION I 
WATER, A COLLECTIVE RESOURCE

Common heritage of the Québec nation.

1. Being of vital interest, both surface water and groundwater, in their natural state, are resources that are part of the common heritage of the Québec nation.

Common use.

As set out in article 913 of the Civil Code, their use is common to all and they may not be appropriated except under the conditions defined by that article.

2009, c. 21, s. 1.

Access to water.

2. Under the conditions and within the limits defined by the law, it is the right of every natural person to have access to water that is safe for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.

2009, c. 21, s. 2.

Sustainable development.

3. The protection, restoration, improvement and management of water resources are of general interest and further sustainable development.

Public access.

The Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks may take action to promote public access to the St. Lawrence River and other bodies of water or watercourses, particularly to allow any person to travel on them in accordance with the conditions set out in article 920 of the Civil Code.

2009, c. 21, s. 3.

DIVISION II 
PRINCIPLES

§ 1. —  User pays principle

Costs assume by users.

4. The costs related to water resource use, including protection, restoration, improvement and management costs, are to be borne by users under the conditions defined by law and on the basis of environmental, social and economic consequences and the polluter pays principle.

2009, c. 21, s. 4.

§ 2. —  Prevention principle

Protection of water resources.

5. Every person has a duty, under the conditions defined by law, to prevent or at least limit the damage the person may cause to water resources and to thus join in the effort to protect water resources.

2009, c. 21, s. 5.

§ 3. —  Reparation principle

Reparation of damage.

6. Every person must repair the damage the person causes to water resources, under the conditions defined by law.

2009, c. 21, s. 6.

§ 4. —  Principles of transparency and participation

Access to any information.

7. Under the conditions and within the limits defined by law, every person has a right of access to any information on water resources that is held by public authorities and a right to participate in public decision-making that affects those resources.

2009, c. 21, s. 7.

DIVISION III 
ACTION FOR DAMAGE TO WATER RESOURCES

Action for damage to water resources.

8. If damage to water resources, including impairment of their physical, chemical or biological properties, ecological functions or quantitative status, is caused by a person or through a person's fault or illegal act, the Attorney General may institute an action against that person, in the name of the State as custodian of the interests of the nation in water resources, with a view to obtaining one or more of the following:

 (1) restoration of the water resources to their original state or a state similar to their original state;

 (2) reparation through compensatory measures;

 (3) reparation by payment of compensation in a lump sum or otherwise.

“Original state”.

For the purposes of this section, “original state” means the state of the water resources and of their ecological functions as it would have existed had the damage not occurred, determined on the basis of the best available information.

Obligation to make reparation.

The obligation to make reparation for damage to water resources or their ecological functions caused through the fault or illegal act of two or more persons is solidary.

2009, c. 21, s. 8.

Regulations.

9. For the purposes of an action for damage to water resources, the Government may make regulations determining

 (1) the conditions applicable to restoration to the original state or a state similar to the original state and to reparation through compensatory measures; and

 (2) the elements to be considered and the scales or methods to be used in assessing or determining damage to water resources, including impairments of the ecological functions performed by water for the benefit of other natural resources and the public, and in determining the compensation payable for such damage.

2009, c. 21, s. 9.

10. Compensation obtained as a result of an action brought under this division is to be credited to the Green Fund established by section 15.1 of the Act respecting the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs (chapter M-30.001) to finance water governance measures, including water protection and development measures and measures to ensure there is an adequate quality and quantity of water in a sustainable development perspective.

2009, c. 21, s. 10; 2011, c. 18, s. 105.

Prescription.

11. An action for damage to water resources is prescribed 10 years after the date on which the Minister becomes aware of the damage.

2009, c. 21, s. 11.

DIVISION IV 
WATER GOVERNANCE

“the St. Lawrence”.

12. In this division, “the St. Lawrence” means, in addition to the St. Lawrence River, the St. Lawrence Estuary and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

2009, c. 21, s. 12.

Water resource management.

13. Water resource management in the hydrologic units designated under subparagraph 2 of the first paragraph of section 14 must be based on a concerted, integrated strategy, particularly in the hydrologic unit of outstanding significance that is the St. Lawrence.

Sustainable development principles.

This integrated, concerted management must reflect sustainable development principles such as those set out in section 6 of the Sustainable Development Act (chapter D-8.1.1).

2009, c. 21, s. 13.

Powers of the Minister.

14. For the purposes of section 13, the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks may

 (1) establish major directions for concerted, integrated water resource management;

 (2) identify and describe hydrologic units, including watersheds, sub-watersheds and groups of watersheds, for all or part of the territory of Québec on the basis of such criteria as

(a)  the area of the hydrologic units;

(b)  the territorial limits of Québec, the administrative regions or the regional county municipalities, as the case may be;

(c)  the population density;

(d)  the past co-operation, cohesion and harmony between the various users and stakeholders; and

(e)  the environmental, social and economic homogeneity of development activities;

 (3) for each of the hydrologic units referred to in subparagraph 2 that the Minister specifies, provide, on the conditions determined by the Minister and subject to subparagraph 4, either

(a)  for the creation of a body whose mission is to develop and update a water master plan and facilitate and monitor its implementation, ensuring balanced representation, within that body, of users and of stakeholders from such sectors as the government, Native, municipal, economic, environmental, agricultural and community sectors, or

(b)  in exceptional circumstances, for the designation of a body to pursue that mission in conjunction with users and stakeholders;

 (4) for the St. Lawrence hydrologic unit, provide on the conditions determined by the Minister or agreed between the Minister and any government authority concerned,

(a)  for the establishment of governance mechanisms to ensure, for all or part of the St. Lawrence, co-operation between users and stakeholders in various sectors, and the planning and harmonization of measures for the protection and efficient use of water resources and water-dependent natural resources; and

(b)  for the creation or designation, as the main component of these governance mechanisms, of a body to develop and update an integrated management plan for the St. Lawrence and to promote and monitor its implementation, ensuring balanced representation, within the body, of users and stakeholders in various sectors;

 (5) prescribe rules governing the operation and financing of a body created or designated under subparagraph 3 or 4 and of governance mechanisms established under subparagraph 4;

 (6) specify the elements that must be dealt with in a water master plan or an integrated management plan for all or part of the St. Lawrence, including the state of waters and water-dependent natural resources, the identification of water uses and an assessment of their effects, an inventory of zones of ecological interest and of ecologically fragile or degraded zones, measures to protect and restore the qualitative or quantitative status of waters, and an evaluation of the economic and financial means required to implement the plan; and

 (7) determine conditions for developing, updating and monitoring the implementation of a water master plan or an integrated management plan for all or part of the St. Lawrence, such as informing the public and enlisting its participation, obtaining the Minister's approval of the plan, and submitting status reports to the Minister on the plan's implementation.

Publication of notice.

When creating or designating a body under this section, the Minister must publish, particularly in the region concerned and in any appropriate manner, a notice identifying the body and containing a brief description of its mission.

2009, c. 21, s. 14.

Approval of plan.

15. After approving a water master plan or an integrated management plan for all or part of the St. Lawrence, the Minister must publish, particularly in the region concerned and in any appropriate manner, a notice announcing the approval and mentioning where the plan may be consulted or a copy obtained.

Copy of the plan.

The Minister must also send a copy of the plan to all government departments and bodies and to the regional county municipalities, metropolitan communities and local municipalities whose territory is situated, in whole or in part, in the hydrologic unit to which the plan applies so they will take the plan into consideration when exercising their powers and duties under the law in the water sector or any other sector affecting water.

2009, c. 21, s. 15.

DIVISION V 
BUREAU DES CONNAISSANCES SUR L'EAU

Bureau des connaissances sur l'eau.

16. A water knowledge branch to be known as the Bureau des connaissances sur l'eau is established within the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs.

The Bureau's mission.

The Bureau's mission is to set up, and ensure the technical coordination of, an information system for the collection of data on water resources, aquatic ecosystems and water uses in the hydrologic units referred to in subparagraph 2 of the first paragraph of section 14, and to conserve and disseminate the data, with a view to supporting learning requirements in the water sector and providing the public with the most complete, reliable and up-to-date information possible.

Association with the development of the information system.

The municipalities and Native communities and every department, body, educational or research institution or group whose mission, functions or activities relate in whole or in part to the water sector may, by invitation or at their request, be associated with the development of the information system.

2009, c. 21, s. 16.

Report on the state of water resources and aquatic ecosystems.

17. Not later than 19 June 2014 and every five years after that, the Bureau must send the Minister a report on the state of water resources and aquatic ecosystems.

Report available to the public.

The report is to be made available to the public within 30 days after it is sent to the Minister.

2009, c. 21, s. 17; I.N. 2014-08-01.

DIVISION VI 
AMENDING PROVISIONS

ENVIRONMENT QUALITY ACT

18. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, heading of Division V of Chapter I).

2009, c. 21, s. 18.

19. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, ss. 31.74-31.108).

2009, c. 21, s. 19.

20. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, s. 32).

2009, c. 21, s. 20.

21. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, subdivision 5 of Division V of Chapter I).

2009, c. 21, s. 21.

22. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, s. 46).

2009, c. 21, s. 22.

23. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, s. 96).

2009, c. 21, s. 23.

24. (Inoperative, 2011, c. 20, s. 18).

2009, c. 21, s. 24.

25. (Inoperative, 2011, c. 20, s. 18).

2009, c. 21, s. 25.

26. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, s. 112.0.1).

2009, c. 21, s. 26.

27. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, s. 117).

2009, c. 21, s. 27.

28. (Inoperative, 2011, c. 20, s. 30).

2009, c. 21, s. 28.

29. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, s. 118.5).

2009, c. 21, s. 29.

30. (Amendment integrated into c. Q-2, Schedule 0.A).

2009, c. 21, s. 30.

ACT RESPECTING ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE

31. (Amendment integrated into c. J-3, Schedule III).

2009, c. 21, s. 31.

DIVISION VII 
REPEALING PROVISION

32. (Omitted).

2009, c. 21, s. 32.

DIVISION VIII 
TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS

Water withdrawal authorizations.

33. Water withdrawal authorizations issued by the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks before 14 August 2014 under section 32 of the Environment Quality Act (chapter Q-2) or any other provision of that Act or the regulations are, as of that date, deemed to have been issued under new section 31.75 of that Act.

Period of validity.

Consequently, unless they specify a shorter term and subject to the last paragraph of section 31.81 of that Act and to any regulation of the Government providing for a longer term, such authorizations are valid for 10 years as of the date mentioned above and are renewable.

Applicable provisions.

The second paragraph is also applicable, with the necessary modifications, to water withdrawal authorizations issued by the Government before 14 August 2014 under section 31.5 or 31.6 of that Act.

2009, c. 21, s. 33.

Water withdrawals.

34. Water withdrawals that are being lawfully made on 14 August 2014 and for which no authorization has been issued under the Environment Quality Act (chapter Q-2) may continue under the same conditions for 10 years following that date, or for a longer period corresponding to the term set by regulation of the Government for authorizations to which such water withdrawals would be subject under the new provisions of that Act. On the expiry of that period, however, continuation of the withdrawals is subject to an authorization issued in accordance with those new provisions.

Water withdrawals by a municipality.

However, water withdrawals being made by a municipality on 14 August 2014 to supply a waterworks system operated by the municipality may continue after the expiry of the period mentioned in the first paragraph without the authorization of the Minister.

Authorization.

Water withdrawals referred to in the first or second paragraph may not be increased without an authorization issued in accordance with the new provisions mentioned above.

2009, c. 21, s. 34.

Regulation to set the time limits.

35. A regulation of the Government is to be made not later than 14 August 2019 to set the time limits, prior to the expiry of the period mentioned in section 33 or 34, within which persons who are making water withdrawals covered by either of those sections are required to apply to the Minister for an authorization or an authorization renewal for those withdrawals. The time limits may vary according to such factors as the quantity of water withdrawn and the intended use of the water.

Applicable penalties.

Section 115.34 of the Environment Quality Act (chapter Q-2), with the necessary modifications, applies for the purpose of determining the applicable penalties in the case of the contravention of a provision of a regulation made under this section.

2009, c. 21, s. 35; 2011, c. 20, s. 47.

Contravention.

36. The contravention of section 34 makes the offender liable to the penalties prescribed by section 115.32 of the Environment Quality Act (chapter Q-2).

2009, c. 21, s. 36; 2011, c. 20, s. 48.

Applicable provisions.

37. Sections 113, 114, 114.3, 115, 115.2 to 115.4, 115.35 to 115.57 and 116.1.1 of the Environment Quality Act (chapter Q-2), with the necessary modifications, apply to a contravention of section 34 or a regulation made under section 35.

2009, c. 21, s. 37; 2011, c. 20, s. 49.

Compensation.

38. The application of sections 33 and 34 entails no compensation from the State even if it shortens the period during which the water withdrawals concerned may continue.

2009, c. 21, s. 38.

DIVISION IX 
FINAL PROVISIONS

Applicable provisions.

39. This Act applies to the Government, government departments, and bodies that are mandataries of the State.

2009, c. 21, s. 39.

Minister responsible.

40. The Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks is responsible for the administration of this Act.

2009, c. 21, s. 40.

41. (Omitted).

2009, c. 21, s. 41.

REPEAL SCHEDULE

In accordance with section 9 of the Act respecting the consolidation of the statutes and regulations (chapter R-3), chapter 21 of the statutes of 2009, in force on 1 August 2009, is repealed, except section 41, effective from the coming into force of chapter C-6.2 of the Revised Statutes.