ID No.: GQM00256
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PRESS RELEASE 3

Report of the Commission sur la gestion de l’eau au Québec

GROUNDWATER EXPORT SCHEMES SHOULD UNDERGO
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT

Québec City, May 3, 2000 – In its report entitled L'eau, ressource à protéger, à partager et à mettre en valeur, the Commission sur la gestion de l'eau au Québec calls on Québec’s Environment Minister to clarify the legal status of groundwater so that it is considered "public property" on the same level as surface water.

The Commission also recommends that projects involving the removal of more than 75 cubic metres of groundwater a day be subject to the environmental impact assessment and review procedure.

The report portrays groundwater as an abundant resource and an attractive alternative to surface water as a water supply source. According to various experts, Québec uses only a fraction of its available groundwater resources. Thus, there is reason to believe that groundwater use will increase, particularly as a source of drinking water since, in general, groundwater is of higher quality than surface water and costs less to treat.

In recent years, citizens have voiced concern over the commercial bottling and export of groundwater. According to the Commission, bottled water accounts for less than 1% of all water removed from the aquifer and therefore does not pose a threat to the groundwater resource as a whole. At the local level, however, commercial extraction could lead to usage conflicts or eventually deplete the resource if total water removal exceeds the aquifer’s capacity to recharge itself. Commercially prepared bottled water from underground sources sold in containers of up to 25 litres is a booming industry on both a local and international scale. In order to take full advantage of this business opportunity, "the conditions must be put in place to ensure that all stages of production, from container manufacturing to bottling, quality control, labelling and marketing, are carried out in Québec by Quebecers," says the Commission.

To ensure groundwater resources are managed prudently and in a sustainable manner, the Commission recommends that the Environment Minister make all projects involving the daily removal of more than 75 cubic metres of groundwater subject to environmental impact assessment and review. This measure would provide the necessary studies and enable automatic review of controversial projects. It would apply to all of the primary users: commercial bottlers, municipalities, industry, aquaculture producers, golf courses, etc. The Commission also recommends the production of hydrogeological maps of Québec’s groundwater resources.

In another section of its report, the Commission recommends banning all large-scale exports of surface and groundwater by watercourse diversion, tankers or bulk containers.

For further information, the full report is available on the Internet at www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/eau. Copies may also be ordered by e-mail at eau@bape.gouv.qc.ca, or by calling (418) 643-7447 or, toll-free, 1-800-463-4732.

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SOURCE:
Serge Labrecque, Information Officer
Telephone: (418) 643-7447 or 1-800-463-4732
E-mail: eau@bape.gouv.qc.ca

 

Ó Gouvernement du Québec 2000