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Drinking Water Source Protection

Drinking water source protection is about protecting both the quality and the quantity of these municipal drinking water sources, now and into the future.

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What is Drinking Water Source Protection?

Our municipal drinking water comes from lakes, rivers, streams or underground sources (aquifers) located across the province of Ontario. All of these sources of water are linked in a watershed through the water cycle. Drinking water source protection is about protecting both the quality and the quantity of these municipal drinking water sources, now and into the future.

Almost three-quarters of the people who live in Ontario, rely on water that is drawn from surface sources-such as the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River. The remainder of Ontario's population relies on groundwater.

The Clean Water Act introduces a new level of protection for Ontario's drinking water resources that focuses on protecting water before it enters the drinking water treatment system. The Act establishes a locally driven, science-based, multi-stakeholder process to protect municipal residential drinking water sources and designated private drinking water sources. The process will promote the shared responsibility of all stakeholders to protect sources of municipal drinking water.

Almost one-third of municipalities in Ontario with water supply systems, reported shortages over the past 10 years. Some municipalities are predicting serious shortages in the next decade.

The Clean Water Act, 2006 was proclaimed on July 3, 2007 and the first set of regulations was promulgated. The Clean Water Act and associated regulations provide the legislative basis for drinking water source protection planning and the creation of a source protection plan(s). We can protect the quality and quantity of our municipal drinking water sources by managing the influences on them. Drinking water source protection involves identifying threats to municipal drinking water sources, assessing the significance of each threat, taking action to reduce or eliminate the threat, and monitoring progress. Each drinking water source protection plan will develop understanding of water quantity, quality, processes, threats and possible solutions for the watersheds in the region using an interdisciplinary approach.

Where are Source Protection Plans being created?

The Clean Water Act and associated regulations establish source protection areas and regions across Ontario for which drinking water source protection plans will be created. Each source protection area represents a watershed, e.g. Toronto and Region Conservation = Toronto and Region Source Protection Area.

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 and are recognized for their watershed management knowledge, and connections to local communities. Conservation authorities are key players in the coordination of the multi-year drinking water source protection planning process involving municipalities, community organizations, industries and residents.

Why Should We Protect Drinking Water Sources?

We all have a responsibility to safeguard human health by ensuring that current and future sources of municipal drinking water from Ontario's lakes, rivers and groundwater are protected from potential contamination and depletion. Protecting water at its source is the first step in ensuring that every Ontarian has access to safe drinking water - its part of a multi-barrier preventive approach and it's far less expensive to prevent a problem than it is to take corrective action should contamination occur.

Source Water Protection vs Drinking Water Source Protection

There can be confusion about the terms "source water protection" and "drinking water source protection." They do not have the same meaning.

Source water protection is a general term for protection of all water supplies, no matter the end use (e.g. wildlife habitat, recreational). Conservation authorities are involved in source water protection through their many diverse watershed management programs/plans/activities.

Drinking water source protection refers only to the protection of municipal drinking water sources, i.e. activities resulting from the Clean Water Act. Conservation authorities are now involved in drinking water source protection through their legislated role under the Clean Water Act.

For more information on watershed management in Toronto and Region Conservation, visit Watershed Strategies.

Source Protection Planning in Toronto and Region

Conservation authorities across the province have already begun source protection work. Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) has been working with Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) leading up to the proclamation of the Clean Water Act and promulgation of the first set of regulations on July 3, 2007.

Staff from TRCA, CVC, and CLOCA have been meeting on a regular basis to establish various committees and working groups, to develop agreements and work plans, and to initiate the technical watershed assessment component of the proposed source protection plans.

Work will continue, collaboratively, with the newly established Toronto and Region Source Protection Authority, Credit Valley Source Protection Authority and Central Lake Ontario Source Protection Authority within the CTC Source Protection Region.

The TRCA regards drinking water source protection as a component of overall watershed planning, and is committed to continuing its partnership with municipalities and other watershed stakeholders as an effective means of preparing and implementing any new requirements associated with drinking water source protection planning and implementation.

Drinking water source protection planning activities are 100 per cent funded by the Government of Ontario.

For more information:

CTC Source Protection Region -

Clean Water Act -

Conservation Ontario -

Or e-mail:

CTC Protecting Drinking Water in Your Community
The CTC Source Protection Committee has completed the Draft Terms of Reference which will guide clean drinking water planning over the next four years. These Terms of Reference are available for review and comment until September 21, 2008 at