Drinking Water Source Protection - NVCA

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​​​​​Drinking Water Source Protection

Twenty years have passed since the Walkerton water tragedy.​ There is much we have learned and accomplished since then. And yet, there is m​uch to do. We know that protecting our drinking water is a vital and shared ongoing responsibility – and it starts right at the water source! ​

For general information on drinking wate​r source protection, including regional maps and frequently asked questions, visit our regional source protection website at ourwatershed.ca

History of Drinking​ Water Source Protection​

In 2000, the Town of Walkerton suffered an E.coli breakout in their municipal drinking water resulting in the death of seven people and 2,300 people becoming very ill and suffered from long term illnesses. As a result, the Government of Ontario established a public inquiry, led by Justice Dennis O’Conner, to look into the future safety of the water supply in Ontario.​

In his report, Justice O'Connor called for a multiple-barrier water management approach to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again. The multi-barrier approach includes preventing contamination of sources of our water, using adequate water treatment and distribution systems, water testing and training of water managers.​
In 2006, the Clean Water Act was implemented as a result of these recommendations. The Act helps ensure that our communities are able to protect their municipal drinking water supplies from contamination andoveruse. It uses a multi-barrier approach that stops contaminants from entering sources of drinking water and subsequent water treatment. Here's how it works:

Our sources of drinking water are lakes, rivers and g​roundwater aquifers. By protecting these sources from contamination and depletion, we can enjoy clean and abundant water for future generations. Ontario’s Clean Water Act helps protect sources for our municipal drinking water systems.

The source water from our lakes, rivers and groundwater must be treated so that any harmful contaminants and organisms are reduced or removed. In Ontario, municipalities use different water sources and provide the treatment needed, so that you and I can #TrustTheTap for safe, clean drinking water.

The government of Ontario carries out inspections of municipal residential drinking water systems per the Safe Drinking Water Act. An inspection rating is given to each system to show how well it follows the rules. If a problem is found, the inspector can prescribe timely corrective actions.

Trained and certified operators regularly test our municipal residential drinking water. This is a good way to check the quality of drinking water and also the system’s ongoing ability to provide safe drinking water. If a test shows any problems with the water quality, corrective actions are applied.

The distribution system includes pipes, pumping stations, and more, to carry the treated drinking water to our property lines. Municipalities make sure that there is disinfectant in this system too, and test it regularly to check that clean, safe water is conveyed.​​​

More than 80% of Ontario’s population receives their drinking water from a municipal drinking water system! Pandemic or not, safe and abundant drinking water is one of the key pillars of public health. Protection of our drinking water is a shared responsibility, which is achieved through a multi-barrier approach.

The first barrier in the multi-barrier approach is to ensure that water is protected at its source and that managing source water protection was done ​​​​​​on a watershed basis.​

Conservation Authorities have a strong track record of partnering with municipal, provincial and federal governments in developing practical solutions to watershed issues. They are recognized for their watershed management knowledge and connections to local communities. They are also used to working on a watershed basis, across municipal boundaries. For these reasons, Conservation Authorities have been designated as the lead agencies in developing Source Water Protection plans.

What is Source Water?

Source water is untreated water from lakes, streams, or underground aquifers used to supply drinking water systems. Source Water Protection is simply protecting source water from contamination, by pathogens or chemicals, or overuse. This will ensure that there is enough safe water for all designated uses - now and in the future.

South Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Protection Region

Source Water Protection Region Map​The Conservation Authority's role is to coordinate source water protection planning across the watershed. It provides support to local municipalities, and ensures that municipal strategies are integrated into larger watershed plans.

The NVCA is a partner in the South Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Source Protection Region. This is one of 19 Source Protection Regions throughout Ontario. This region contains four watersheds and spans over 10,000 km2, from the Oak Ridges Moraine in the south to the Canadian Shield in the north. It contains 52 municipalities, three First Nations communities, 291 municipal supply wells, and 16 municipal surface water intakes.

There are three Source Protection Authorities within this region:

Source Water Protection Plan

Source protection planning and implementation is all about protecting existing and future sources of drinking water.

The Source Protection Plan for the South Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Source Protection Region sets out actions to address contamination threats to the lakes, rivers and underground aquifers that supply water to the municipal drinking water systems in our area.

It received approval from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change on January 29, 2015. It takes effect on July 1, 2015.

How was the plan developed?

The plan was the result of many years' work and public consultation. 

This Source Protection Committee was one of 19 committees established through the Clean Water Act. Each Committee assessed potential risks to local water supplies. Members then led local discussions with municipal partners about the best way to address these risks, using the input to develop a source protection plan. Advice was sought from sector experts throughout the plan development.

The committee in this region consists of a chair and 22 members speaking for the local interests of the region (municipal, public, health, business, agriculture). Rama First Nations participated in the development of the plan, and their drinking water intake is included within the plan.

Community engagement was very important to the plan's development, and the committee consulted with the public throughout the entire process.

What does the plan include?

The policies in the Source Protection Plan protect the lakes, rivers and underground aquifers that supply ​water to municipal drinking water systems. The plan outlines actions to protect our region's 16 municipal intake systems and 277 municipal well systems. 

Where can I view the plan?

The Source Protection Plan for the South Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Source Protection Region is available at ourwatershed.ca.  If you require the plan in an alternative format, please contact the NVCA office.

How serious are the risks to my drinking water supply?

The South Georgian Bay Lake Simcoe Source Protection Region identified significant risks that could occur in protection zones of our area's drinking water systems. However, these areas where risks could be significant only make up about 10 per cent of the total source protection region. Risks relate to activities such as:

  • waste management
  • sewage and stormwater
  • agriculture
  • road salt application and storage
  • snow storage
  • chemicals, organic solvents and fuel handling and storage
  • water taking
  • pesticides, commercial fertilizer and manure application

The plan calls for actions to manage or restrict these activities.


For more information about Source Water Protection in our area, visit ourwatershed.ca or contact Ryan Post , M.Sc. P.Geo, Senior ​Hydrogeologist, Source Water Protection Coordinator at rpost@nvca.on.ca​​​