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

Adopted June 11, 2009 

The Act to affirm the collective nature of water resources and provide for increased water resource protection was adopted by unanimous consent of the National Assembly on June 11, 2009. In confirming the legal status of water resources as part of our collective patrimony, the Act defines the responsibilities of the government as protector of the resource on behalf of its citizens, as well as the rights and responsibilities of the community.

In addition, the Act establishes a new water withdrawal authorization regime that strengthens the protection of water resources. This new regime recognizes that it is essential to give priority to meeting the population’s needs before reconciling the needs of ecosystems and economic activities. The Act limits the validity period for water withdrawals to 10 years, with some exceptions. It grants the Minister and government the power to limit or halt any water withdrawal that presents a serious risk to public health or aquatic ecosystems, without compensation from the government.

The Act also allows for the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement to be implemented in Québec. It prohibits the transfer of water withdrawn from the St. Lawrence River Basin, with some exceptions. Furthermore, new withdrawals or the increase of existing withdrawals in the Basin will, under conditions defined by the Act, be subject to new rules aimed at strengthening the protection and management of water resources.

As a result of the enactment of the Water Withdrawal and Protection Regulation on July 16, 2014, the Act came into full force on August 14, 2014.

The June 2017 adoption of the Act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water updated the Act to affirm the collective nature of water resources and provide for increased water resource protection, in particular by recognizing the ecological functions of wetlands and bodies of water, specifying the roles of watershed bodies and regional dialogue round tables, and assigning the responsibility for developing and implementing the regional plan for wetlands and bodies of water plan within their respective boundaries to regional county and local municipalities.

The Act respecting the conservation of wetlands and bodies of water also empowered the Minister to develop and implement programs to foster the rehabilation and creation of wetlands and bodies of water. It also required various reports on the evolution of situations respecting wetlands and bodies of water, especially those dealing with the “no net loss” goal.

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