|Fact Sheet (2010)
Walkerton and Source Water Protection: Ten Years Later
Summary of Conservation Ontario’s Participation in Part II of the Walkerton Inquiry and Written Submissions
Expert Meeting Participation
• Contaminant Pathways Source Protection of Drinking Water
Public Hearing Participation
Submissions 2 & 3
• Provincial Policy Statement (PPS)
• Town Hall meeting presentations by individual Conservation Authorities
• press release
• presentations at conferences and an article in Canadian Water Resources Association’s December issue of Water News.
The Walkerton Inquiry, as established in June 2000 by the government of Ontario, was a public inquiry into the E.Coli contamination of the water supply in Walkerton, Ontario in May 2000. The Honourable Dennis R. O'Connor, Commissioner was charged with preparing a public report of findings and recommendations to ensure the safety of the water supply system in Ontario. Part I of the Walkerton Inquiry focused on the exact circumstances surrounding the Walkerton contamination event while Part II of the Inquiry focused on public policy development for the protection of Ontario’s drinking water supply.
Conservation Ontario, on behalf of all Conservation Authorities and jointly with the Saugeen Valley and also Grand River Conservation Authorities, had standing for Part II of the Walkerton Inquiry. Conservation Ontario received $25,000.00 from the inquiry for its participation and significant ‘in kind’ contributions from its members.
Call For Manditory Watershed Management to Protect Drinking Water
Around the world, modern water treatment has utilized the concept of multiple–barrier protection of drinking water. While source water protection is the first barrier, it has not been sufficiently emphasized or incorporated into regulations or standards in Ontario. Conservation Ontario promotes the protection of drinking water at source as a permanent and integral part of a long-term, secure water supply strategy as well we stress that the watershed must be recognized as the viable unit for managing water and implementing source water protection.
Everything is Connected to Everything Else
The issue of water supply and source water protection is inextricably linked to other aspects of water and related land management. Water supplies may be derived from surface or groundwater sources and may serve a municipal supply network or private residences, farms, or businesses. Water supply sources are threatened in three ways by human activities in the watershed.
Firstly, the quantity of water available for supply is reduced by activities that decrease the infiltration of water into the ground (e.g. urban pavement) or channel water away quickly before it can infiltrate (e.g. urban and rural drainage). Secondly, the future availability of water supply is threatened by overuse such as excessive demand, inefficient water use, and inappropriate allocation. Thirdly, the quality of water available for water supply is threatened by pollution from both point and non-point sources. The importance of considering source water protection within a watershed context is emphasized because water supply is affected not only by human activities local to the water supply, but from anywhere upstream of the point of taking.
Requirements for Effective Watershed Management
Watershed management is not so much about managing natural resources, as it is managing the human activity that affects these resources. The watershed management process is a continuum that involves: data collection and analysis necessary for developing a plan; a variety of mechanisms for implementing the plan; the financial resources to carry out the plan; ongoing monitoring of the plan’s effectiveness; and a process for updating the plan. This process brings together all key stakeholders, thus providing the opportunity for all important issues to be considered, resources to be fairly allocated, and plan recommendations to be implemented. Stakeholders are more likely to participate in the implementation of the plan if they have been actively involved in its development. Public participation is an integral component of watershed management.
How To Implement Watershed Plans
Watershed plans can be implemented through a variety of mechanisms that are administered by several agencies at the provincial and local level. These can be categorized as land use planning (e.g. municipal zoning of sensitive areas such as groundwater recharge/discharge areas), regulations (e.g. restrictions on water takings), land and water stewardship (e.g. best management practices and water conservation), public land securement, and infrastructure development and maintenance. To ensure protection of source water supply and quality the implementation mechanisms must take into account local watershed conditions and constraints as identified by the watershed management plan. For the purposes of assessing these as they relate to source water protection, the key decision-support tools are water budget modelling, aquifer vulnerability studies and assimilation studies.
Although successful examples exist, the current practice of watershed planning in Ontario, often led by conservation authorities, has not been consistently integrated with drinking water supply planning typically led by municipalities.
Successful watershed planning provides a means for integrating planning for drinking water supplies with a broad range of water management objectives and results in improved effectiveness at meeting overall objectives. Often this approach to protecting drinking water sources will provide broader public/environmental benefits and vice versa.
Conservation Ontario’s recommendations to the Walkerton Inquiry focussed on improvements so that a base level of watershed management is provided to protect drinking water supply. Recommendations addressed the following needs: