"The first barrier to the contamination
of drinking water
involves protecting the sources of drinking water."
- Justice Dennis O'Connor, Walkerton Inquiry 2002
Water is critical
to all aspects of our lives and it is important that we ensure
there is a safe and reliable source of water for all our uses
- now and in the future.
Our drinking water comes from lakes, rivers, streams or underground sources (aquifers) located across the province. All of these sources of water are linked in a watershed through the water cycle. Drinking water sources can be easily contaminated and have a limited tolerance for stress. Long terms problems can develop that are costly or even impossible to correct.
In order to make sure we have enough clean water for drinking and other uses, we need to protect sources by managing the influences on them. The best way to protect sources of water is on a watershed basis because water flows across traditional boundaries such as towns and cities. Conservation Authorities are the only watershed management agencies in Ontario that are organized on a watershed basis (see Map).
Drinking water is best protected by taking an approach that uses multiple barriers to prevent contamination from affecting our drinking water. Known as the 'multibarrier approach', it includes taking actions to prevent contamination of sources of our water, using adequate water treatment and distribution systems, water testing and training of water managers. In his Walkerton Inquiry, Justice O'Connor called for a multiple-barrier water management approach to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again. He concluded that source protection is one of the most effective and efficient means of protecting the safety of Ontario's drinking water. He also made 22 recommendations related to source water protection planning, including the need to develop legislation that would require source protection plans to be developed and implemented locally for every watershed in Ontario.
The Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act is part of the Ontario government's commitment to implementing all of the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry. For the first time, communities will be required to create and carry out a plan to protect the sources of their municipal drinking water supplies. For more information...
Source Protection Plans
As a result of the Clean Water Act , Communities in Ontario are required to develop source protection plans in order to protect their municipal sources of drinking water. These plans identify risks to local drinking water sources and develop a strategies to reduce or eliminate these risks. Because it is everyone's responsibility to protect our water resources, broad consultation throughout the development of the source protection plans is important and involves municipalities, Conservation Authorities, property owners, farmers, industry, businesses, community groups, public health officials, First Nations. For more information on Source Protection Planning and the technical studies involved.
- Find your Source Protection Region or Area.
- For More Information on the Clean Water Act in English (French)
- Drinking Water Source Protection Planning - Understanding the Process * New
Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program
As part of its commitment to safe drinking water and as established in the Clean Water Act, the Ministry of the Environment launched the Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program (ODWSP), a financial assistance program to help landowners and businesses take action to reduce threats to local municipal drinking water sources. Funding is provided by the Ministry of the Environment, through partnerships with participating Source Protection Regions and Areas.
First Phase: 2007 – 2010
Education and Outreach
Second Phase: 2011 – 2012
A total of $21 million was available over the first three years from spring 2007 to spring 2010. This funding was used on stewardship projects such as well decommissioning and upgrading, septic system inspections and upgrades, runoff and erosion control, pollution prevention reviews for businesses and other best management practices and public education. Many have been completed, but some are still underway across Ontario.
An additional $7 million has been allocated for phase two. The second phase of the ODWSP is a voluntary program, similar to the earlier phase, but addresses specific local drinking water threats identified by Source Protection Committees through the Source Protection Assessment Reports. The program is being delivered by Conservation Authorities to landowners and businesses through an application process.
The types of projects include: improving septic systems, managing and storage of pesticides and fertilizer as well as proper storage and management of fuel.
- Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program Toolkit
- Conservation Ontario Media Release (Jan 26, 2011)
Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program and Conservation Authorities (Backgrounder – Jan 26, 2011)