OMWA - History

History of the Ontario Municipal Water Association (OMWA)

The Ontario Municipal Water Association is the voice of municipal public water supply in Ontario. Its members are public water supply owners and municipally owned operating authorities.

2006 - 2013

In 2006, the Joint OMWA/OWWA Executive Committee submitted comments on the Clean Water Act and participated in committee hearings on the Act at Queens Park. Also the committee submitted comments on the Drinking Water Quality Management Standard. The plan is to phase in accreditation over a number of months.

On February 7, 2006, the Joint Executive OMWA/OWWA Committee met with the Minister of the Environment, Laurel Broten and re-iterated the association’s position that the Ministry of the Environment take the lead with public water supply in the province. Also discussed was the Clean Water Act, gated communities, the posing threats of conflicting authority of the municipality and the developer/owner, the status of backflow prevention, the Watertight Report and its meshing with the Clean Water Act.

In 2006 a new logo was chosen for OMWA.

In 2007, OMWA was asked by MOE to sit on a stakeholder committee to support the development of the Safe Drinking Water Act financial plan regulation, the financial plan guideline and the subsequent best practices series. In addition, OMWA has 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.

In February 2007, OMWA was incorporated.Also, in 2007, a new website was designed for OMWA. The Board of Directors also worked with a consultant to update OMWA’s Strategic Plan.

The Board developed a political agenda that could be put forward for the 2007 provincial election to the three major political parties. The top three priorities were the Watertight Report, Sustainable Water and Sewage Act 2002 and Backflow Prevention. A list of three key questions were developed by the Government Affairs Committee which was distributed to the leaders of the three main parties in Ontario and the results posted on the website. In addition, a news release and backgrounder would be prepared and sent to the media outlets across the province. In their responses the Liberal and NDP Parties said no to a provincial water board and the Liberal Party confirmed its commitment to work with stakeholders to ensure municipalities can prepare enforceable bylaws to regularly inspect backflow/cross connections on customer’s property.

In 2008, OMWA hired Watson & Associates and Aird &Berlis to prepare a report on the pro’s and con’s of Municipal Service Corporations including as the pros and cons of the current governance models being used to deliver water and wastewater services.

OMWA along with other stakeholders were concerned with the upcoming shortages of operators and other staff in the municipal public water system and began looking at ways to establish a meaningful relationship with community colleges in Ontario to support and advance education, training and development that is relevant to public water supply.

In 2009, OMWA received a commitment from MOE to provide funding for a training video as part of an initiative to develop an industry video that can be used to recruit and train water and wastewater operators. A grant of $26,300.00 was received from MOE. OMWA set up a Steering Committee consisting of representatives from OWWA, WEAO, WCWC and MOE. OMWA would own the video and have exclusive artistic control over the video. eSolutions of Waterloo was hired as the contractor for the College Video project and put together a focus group of 18 students from grades 8-11.Based on the findings of the groups; it was decided to put together 4 videos each 45 seconds in length as opposed to one 7 minute video.

In June 2009, a request was received from the Minister of the Environment’s office to acknowledge the first five municipalities to receive their drinking water licences by doing a press release. The Board of Directors expanded the scope of the releases to include all OMWA Members by sending a congratulatory letter to the clerk of the council and ask that it be put on the council agenda. A copy of the letter was also sent to local Member of Provincial Parliament.

In February 2011, the Board of Directors eliminated the Directors at Large Classification and changed the terms of office for the OMWA Executives from a one year term to a two year term. The two year term would mean a more experienced executive committee which would benefit OMWA.

In May of 2011, a proposal from MediaEdge to hold an annually conference each was reviewed and approval. The contract is for five years and MediaEdge is taking all the financial risk and owning the conference. It was agreed to hold the conference, which was named the Drinking Water Leadership Conference in the fall so it wouldn’t conflict with the Joint Annual OWWA/OMWA Conference. The program would deal mainly with governance, financial and human resources topics as opposed to technical subjects which are addressed at the Joint Annual OWWA/OMWA Conference. The first Summit is to be held in Toronto from October 22-24, 2012.

A new category of membership called Associate members was approved at the 2012 Annual General Meeting. It allows non municipalities to be a member and received information that OMWA sends out to its members. Associate members are not allowed to serve on the OMWA Board of Directors.

Letters of congratulations and appreciation for service were sent to all elected and not successful incumbents in the Ontario Election.

The College Video Program, using eSolutions, put together four funding partners, OMWA, OWWA, WEAO, and OCWA who signed MOU’s to finance a three year project. WCWC agreed to be a partner for the first year only. The project will run in 2012-2014.

The Joint Annual OWWA/OMWA and OWWEA Tradeshow set up a restructuring committee to review the structure of the program and recommend changes for improvement beginning in 2013.Two major changes were eliminating the banquet and replacing it with a Town Hall Meeting to end the final day of the conference.

The 1st Annual Drinking Water Leadership Summit was very successful from a program viewpoint. The Honourable Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario was the keynote speaker and accepted the OMWA Leadership Award for the Provinces work in re structuring the public drinking water sector following Walkerton. An OMWA Leadership Award was given to Peterborough Utility + Services for their significant and continuous contribution to the water industry over 100 years. Plaques were presented to the OMWA Founding member Municipalities. Registrations were not as high as expected due to conflicts with other more established events.

In 2013, OMWA was asked to comment on the Ontario One Call’s related to the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act 2012. OMWA provided comments supporting the new Act.

The original founders of the Association would be very proud of the accomplishments of the Association they started back in 1966. A review of the history shows that the Association was talking about issues, conducting studies, preparing briefs, making public policy statements and distributing educational material to its members 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 and back flow prevention and cross connections, some as early as the 1970’s.

OMWA will continue to represent its members by being proactive, recruiting knowledgeable and dedicated people in the water industry to serve on the Board of Directors, by strengthening relationships with other like minded organizations and forging new relationships with other bodies to ensure that the people of Ontario continue to have a clean, sustainable, affordable supply of drinking water.