The Legal Framework for Groundwater Allocation in Quebec: Towards Integrated Water Management


Hugo Tremblay
Centre for Water Law,
Policy and Science Peters Building,
University of Dundee, DD1 4HN,


This paper aims at providing a model of the legal framework for groundwater allocation in the province of Quebec (Canada), identifying its potential deficiencies and suggesting possible improvements. In Quebec, groundwater is a res communis. The right to use it is tied to real estate property. This right forms the basis of the legal framework for the management of groundwater quantity. However, according to statutory law, the actual use of groundwater also depends on governmental authorisations that limit quantities used. The main statutory instrument for managing the resource is the Groundwater Catchment Regulation (GWCR), which aims at conflict prevention between first users and new users by means of governmental authorisations. In agricultural areas, an additional authorisation regime indirectly prioritises agricultural groundwater uses. Finally, legal mechanisms addressing conflicts between water users rely on the general litigation framework provided by Quebec law without establishing an order of priority for the different uses of the resource. According to Integrated Water Resources Management, four aspects of the legal framework for groundwater quantity management can be modified to increase the efficiency of the allocation regime: 1) provisions should be made to preserve a residual environmental flow; 2) an order of priority should be established between the different uses to minimise conflict; 3) the scope of the regime should be extended to all groundwater users to increase its efficiency; 4) stakeholders should participate in the management of the resource.


Groundwater, Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), quantity management, Quebec (Canada), water law.             LEAD Journal - ISSN 1746-5893