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Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney says the province isn't backing away from legislation for a water classification system. ((CBC))

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick is concerned the Alward government is delaying implementation of a water classification system.

The council is critical of the government's lack of action toward enacting legislation, as set out in the 2002 Clean Water Act.

Stephanie Merrill of the Conservation Council said there have been talks between watershed protection groups and the government, but that they've remained at a standstill.

She believes that with large-scale projects like shale gas exploration and open-pit mining going on in the province, water regulation should not be shelved for any reason.

"So all of the sudden we have these large projects on the books in a time we should be actually beefing up our current regulations, not actually watering down the ones that we currently have," Merrill told CBC News.

The council said it believes the government’s lack of action is a step backward.

However, Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney said she doesn't agree and said the province isn't backing away.

"No, we're not, we're not stepping back. You know, the concern over that isn't real. Because … we're not doing that," Blaney said.

Blaney said the department would be meeting with watershed committees in February to discuss the status of the water classification system.