Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations: frequently asked questions

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below are meant to provide Canadians and businesses with basic information about Environment Canada’s regulations. The Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations are among Environment Canada’s most frequently accessed regulations on the Web.

Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations

  1. What is the purpose of these regulations?
  2. What are the key elements of these regulations?
  3. How do these regulations affect Canadian businesses?
  4. What is the timeline for implementation?
  5. Where can I get more information?

1. What is the purpose of these regulations?

The Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations (the Regulations) address the largest point source of pollution in Canadian waters. The purpose of the Regulations is to reduce the threats to fish, fish habitat and human health from fish consumption by decreasing the level of deleterious substances deposited into waters frequented by fish, from wastewater effluent.

The Regulations also implement a federal commitment under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent.

2. What are the key elements of these regulations?

The Regulations set national effluent quality standards that are achievable through secondary wastewater treatment. Wastewater systems that do not meet the effluent quality standards must upgrade to secondary treatment. This will need to be done within the timeline determined for each system. Approximately 25% of the wastewater systems across Canada require upgrades under the Regulations.

All wastewater system owners or operators subject to the Regulations are required to monitor, record information and submit reports on effluent quality and quantity. The Regulations specify the type of sample to be collected and minimum sampling frequencies, based on the type and size of wastewater system. Systems that deposit larger annual average daily volumes of effluent are required to monitor more frequently than those with smaller volumes. Owners or operators of wastewater systems may be required to install, maintain and calibrate monitoring equipment.

The Regulations also require owners and operators of wastewater systems with combined sewers to record information on the quantity and frequency of effluent discharged and to submit annual reports.

3. How do these regulations affect Canadian businesses?

The Regulations apply to owners and operators of wastewater systems that collect, or are designed to collect, 100 cubic metres or more of influent per day and that discharge to surface water.

As municipalities own and operate the majority of wastewater systems in Canada, the Regulations do not directly affect most Canadian businesses. Wastewater systems are also owned and operated by provinces, territories, federal departments, agencies, First Nations communities and other entities.

4. What is the timeline for implementation?

The Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations, made under the authority of the Fisheries Act, came into force on June 29, 2012, through a phased approach. Owners and operators of wastewater systems that are subject to the Regulations need to achieve the effluent quality standards, indicative of secondary wastewater treatment, by January 1, 2015. Those not meeting the standards need a transitional authorization and will have until the end of 2020, 2030 or 2040 to upgrade, depending on the level of risk associated with their wastewater effluent and the sensitivity of the receiving environment.

5. Where can I get more information?

More information can be found on Environment Canada’s Wastewater website

or by contacting:

Environment Canada
Environmental Stewardship Branch
Industrial Sectors Directorate
Wastewater Program
351 St. Joseph Boulevard, 18th Floor
Gatineau QC  K1A 0H3
Email: eu-ww@ec.gc.ca
Tel.: 819-420-7727
Fax: 819-420-7382

This document is intended to provide contextual information on the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. It does not replace the Fisheries Act or the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations. In the event of any inconsistencies, the Fisheries Act and the Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations shall prevail.

For more information

To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit the Canada Gazette and Consulting with Canadians websites.

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