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Quebec assuming role of guardian of water

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 6/29/2018 12:26:00 PM

Quebec has released its new water strategy, meant to guide the government over the 2018-2030 period. Its implementation will be overseen by a new council, the Conseil québécois de l’eau (Quebec Water Council), chaired by Université de Sherbrooke Economist Alain Webster. 

The government also intends to hold its own feet to the fire. Alongside the strategy, it has released an action plan covering the period 2018 to 2023, listing 23 objectives and specific government actions required to meet those objectives. The action plan is accompanied by a budget of $550 million, and Quebec promises to report annually on its implementation. 

The strategy calls on Quebec to capitalize on the economic potential of water. That doesn’t mean that Quebec’s freshwater resources are now for sale. But they are meant to be used and enjoyed, and that includes continued development of recreational tourism, particularly along the St. Lawrence River. The strategy also identifies the St. Lawrence River’s potential for sport fishing, given the diversity of fish species found near urban centres. Promotion of sport fishing will go hand-in-hand with habitat protection, measures to promote the recovery of species at risk and the re-introduction of species lost. 

Outside the tourism sector, the strategy identifies commercial fishing, aquaculture and marine transport for potential growth. On the latter, the strategy supports efforts to move traffic off roads and onto waterways, citing energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction benefits. 

There is potential to support water-related cleantech. Quebec has several centres devoted to research in drinking water production and development, sewage treatment and biotechnology. There are opportunities for government to support these efforts by acting as a bridge to industry, and through its own procurement. 

As to the often-contentious issue of commercial water use, the strategy acknowledges Quebec’s Water Withdrawal and Protection Regulation (O.C. 696-2014), which imposed strict conditions on water withdrawals of more than 75,000 litres per day. The regulation is still relatively new, and the strategy doesn’t call for any changes to it. 

Quebec’s royalty structure for commercial use is another matter. The fee of $70 per million litres has been in place since 2011 and revenue is meant to be directed toward water conservation. Though the strategy does not specifically call for a royalty increase, it does say that the government will examine economic instruments such as the water royalty.

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