OMWA: Serving Ontarians since 1966
OMWA was formed because of the need to have an organization of elected personnel. On October 13, 1966, water officials from 15 communities met to discuss creating an organization for elected municipal officials who were involved with operating municipal water operations.
The first annual meeting was held on March 20, 1967. One hundred and eighty-five delegates attended, representing municipalities from across Ontario and one municipality from Quebec.
The Ontario Municipal Water Association is unique in not only Ontario but in Canada in that its sole purpose is to be a political organization advocating for municipally-owned water systems, for sustainable policies and legislation for municipal drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. It has no competing interests, which gives OMWA the autonomy to take political positions in the best interests of its membership and petition government to act accordingly.
OMWA continues to meet on a regular basis with senior staff at MOECC and its members participate on various provincial committees. The value of OMWA’s expertise is recognized by the government, which consults on a regular basis with the Association.
The original founders would be proud of the accomplishments of what they started back in 1966. Since then, the Association has raised issues, conducted studies, prepared briefs, made public policy statements and distributed educational material to its members and government ministries and agencies, often many years before these concerns were addressed at a provincial level. Members of the Association were discussing uniform accounting policies, full cost pricing, source water protection, backflow prevention, and cross connections as early as the 1970s.
Some of the association’s accomplishments and activities since its founding include:
- Initiated and prepared a resolution respecting the establishment of construction and design guidelines and regulations for the MOECC, in consultations with the AWWA;
- Prepared the Water Rates in Ontario, Principles and Practices report to address a systematic and understandable procedure for water. The final report is still in use today;
- Prepared numerous briefs and publications, including Ontario’s Water Industry-Models for the 21st Century, Ontario’s Water Industry-New Legislative Framework, The Electricity Competition Act-Implications for Water Utilities and Ontario’s Water Utilities-Governance Models;
- Passed a resolution that, “water quality from the tap depends on the quality of the ‘raw water’ at the intake” and that the control and reduction of the pollutants at source is generally cheaper and more effective than the increasingly complex method of treatment;
- Held a press conference in 1996 to express concerns about privatization of water services, covered extensively by the media. As a result, a clause was added to the Water and Sewage Improvement Act that prevents a municipality from selling its water and sewage works to the private sector unless it first repays any provincial capital grants received since 1978;
- Continued to recommend low-cost loans for water infrastructure, full cost accounting, including a uniform accounting system, water revenues dedicated to water operations and meaningful public input;
- Stated publicly that it was not in the best interests of the water customers or municipal taxpayers to privatize public water services;
- Recognized that backflow prevention and cross connection presented a potentially serious source of water contamination, and that water authorities have no control over backflow/cross connections as it falls under the plumbing code, with no provision for re-inspection or regular testing;
- Advocated low-interest or no-interest loans to water authorities to rebuild aging infrastructure. In 2002, the government announced its low-interest loan scheme to for infrastructure in Ontario;
- Made submissions on the Safe Drinking Water Act;
- Passed a resolution asking the government to provide ongoing mandatory education for all persons who set local policy and who had oversight responsibilities for water supply such as councillors, commissioners and board members to ensure they have sufficient knowledge to fulfill their responsibilities;
- After the water tragedy at Walkerton, OMWA had standing in the Walkerton inquiry, and reviewed and developed papers for Part II on issues such as privatization and governance;
- OMWA was thanked by Justice Dennis O’Connor, Chair of the Inquiry for the “singularly high quality” of OMWA’s submissions, and noted that the Association’s participation “had been invaluable” in considering his recommendations;
- Made numerous submissions to the government on legislation, regulations and other water related issues: The Proposed Components of a Safe Drinking Water Act, Certification of Drinking Water Systems Operations and Water Analysts, Reg. 170,Final Report of the Advisory Committee Watershed based Source Water Protection, Draft Nutrient Management Act, Stages 1 and 2, Watershed Based Source Protection, Drinking Water Source Protection, Regulation to Take Water, Bill 175, Sustainable Water and Sewage Act 2002 (2), Infrastructure Renewal Discussion Paper, Places to Grow, Discussion Paper on Infrastructure Renewal, Draft on the Permit to Take Water Manual 2004, Technical Expert Committee on Source Water Protection and MPIR’s Expert Panel;
- Asked the MOECC to implement new regulations under Reg. 170/03 to set up a risk management system under the Public Health System, which was done;
- Made an in-depth presentation to the MOECC on the proposed source water protection plans;
- Commissioned a new Operator-in-Training (OIT) Manual and then revised and updated that edition when requested by the Ministry (latest edition in winter, 2017);
- Submitted comments on the Clean Water Act and participated in committee hearings on the Act at Queen’s Park;
- Commissioned a report on the pros and cons of Municipal Service Corporations including the current governance models being used to deliver water and wastewater services;
- Explored ways to establish a relationship with community colleges in Ontario to support and advance education, training and development that is relevant to public water supply;
- Sat on a stakeholder committee to support the development of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA);
- Had representation on the Financially Sustainable Water and Wastewater Working Group to develop a financial plan guideline to assist municipalities to meet their obligations under the SDWA financial plan guideline and to plan for water and wastewater sustainability;
- Submitted comments on the Drinking Water Quality Management Standard, and met with the Minister to re-iterate the association’s position that the MOECC take the lead with public water supply in the province;
- Provided comments on the Ontario One Calls related to the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act 2012, supporting the new Act.
OMWA will continue to represent its members by being proactive, recruiting knowledgeable and dedicated people in the water industry to serve on our Board of Directors, by strengthening relationships with other like-minded organizations, and forging new relationships to ensure the people of Ontario continue to have a clean, sustainable, affordable supply of drinking water, and sustainable policies and legislation for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater management.