The Clean Water Act
Source Water Protection
"The first barrier to the contamination of drinking water involves protecting the sources of drinking water."
- Justice Dennis O'Connor, Walkerton Inquiry 2002
The Clean Water Act is part of the Ontario government's commitment to implement all of the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry. For the first time, communities will be required to work cooperatively to develop and implement a local plan to protect the sources of their municipal drinking water supplies.
An extensive consultation process resulted in a variety of stakeholder driven amendments before the Clean Water Act received Royal Assent in October 2006.
The Clean Water Act:
- Requires local communities to look at the existing and potential threats to their water and set out and implement the actions necessary to reduce or eliminate significant threats.
- Empowers communities to take action to prevent threats from becoming significant.
- Requires public participation on every local source protection plan. This means everyone in the community gets a chance to contribute to the planning process.
- Requires that all plans and actions are based on sound science.
The Clean Water Act is designed to promote voluntary initiatives but does require mandatory action where needed. The legislation sets out a basic framework for communities to follow in developing a local approach to protecting their municipal water supplies. The regulations direct the local Source Protection Committees to:
- Identify and assess any risks to the quality and quantity of municipal drinking water sources and decide which risks are significant and need immediate action, which need monitoring to ensure they do not become significant, or which pose a low or negligible risk.
- Develop a source protection plan that sets out how the risks will be addressed and how the development of new risks will be prevented. Broad consultation will involve municipalities, conservation authorities, property owners, farmers, industry, businesses, community groups, public health officials, First Nations and the public in coming up with workable, effective solutions.
- Carry out the plan through existing land use planning and regulatory requirements or approvals, or voluntary initiatives. Activities that pose a significant risk to drinking water sources may be prohibited or may require a site specific risk management plan. This plan will set out the measures that a property owner will take to ensure the activity is no longer a threat.
- Stay vigilant through ongoing monitoring and reporting to measure the effectiveness of the actions taken to protect drinking water sources and ensure they are protected in the future.
For more information on the Clean Water Act, please visit the Ministry of Environment's Clean Water Act website. The NBMCA has developed a plain language guide to the Clean Water Act.