Wastewater standards in Canada are set out in the federal government’s Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. Established under the federal Fisheries Act, these regulations include mandatory minimum effluent quality standards that can be achieved through secondary wastewater treatment. Updates to the standards came into effect in 2015, and are included in our resources document. Prior to the establishment of the federal standards, wastewater standards were set solely by the provincial government.
As standards in Alberta were already high compared to other provinces, the federal standards had less of an impact in this province than in the rest of the country. However, concerns have been raised about the impacts of increased monitoring and reporting requirements. Even though Alberta’s standards are high, municipalities are currently required to report to both the provincial and federal governments. This duplication of effort is costly and time consuming.
Harmonization of wastewater standards is imperative as in the past, municipalities have been charged for violating federal regulations even though they were in full compliance with the provincial standard. The provincial and federal governments have been working towards an agreement, but the process has not been completed. AUMA has called for the provincial and federal governments to complete this process so that municipalities may move forward without the resource intensive requirement to complete two reports.
AUMA policy on wastewater regulations
AUMA’s Municipal Water Policy includes the following policy statements relating to wastewater regulations:
- Harmonized regulations pertaining to wastewater effluent must be developed through collaboration and coordination of federal, provincial and municipal governments in order to ensure optimal and consistent protection of human and environmental health.
- The Governments of Alberta and Canada should engage municipalities in implementing the regulations so that communities can be prepared for any necessary changes to system operations, capital upgrades and the associated cost.
- All levels of government should work together to develop a one-window approach to reporting to ensure that the new federal regulations do not place unnecessary administrative burdens on municipalities.
Resources and examples related to wastewater