Intervenor: vol. 27, no. 3 - 4, July - December 2002

CELA Appointed to Source Protection Advisory Committee

One of the key sets of recommendations made by Justice O'Connor in the Walkerton Inquiry Report was the call for Watershed Based Source Protection Plans and other source protection measures. As he stated, "keeping contaminants out of drinking water sources is an efficient way of keeping them out of drinking water."

Currently, we can say that source protection in Ontario is not practiced. Conservation Authorities and municipalities, among others, are much too limited with their available existing tools. Private landowners such as farmers, industry and developers are not adequately involved in source protection. There is no overall provincial policy favouring source protection.

In CELA's view, what has to change in Ontario was expressed very well in the Walkerton Inquiry Report. There have to be source protection plans prepared on a watershed basis. Source protection planning must become integral to a "systematic land use planning approach that protects drinking water sources" as Justice O'Connor put it. He also recommended that in vulnerable areas, all local and provincial decisions be consistent with the watershed's source protection plan. Examples include water taking permits, land use development applications, farm plans and biosolids Certificates of Approval, among other things.

Without source protection, we're not adequately protecting drinking water. All of the other barriers in the multi-barrier system rely on source protection to work well and effectively.

In November, 2002, the Ontario government appointed a Source Protection Advisory Committee to develop a framework for source protection in accordance with the source protection recommendations resulting from the Walkerton Inquiry. CELA is represented on that advisory committee, along with representatives from Conservation Ontario, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Chiefs of Ontario, the Ontario Medical Association, the Urban Development Institute, the Aggregate Producers Association of Ontario, the Ontario Farm Animal Council, the Ontario Farmers Association, Ducks Unlimited, the University of Toronto, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Ontario Water Works Association.

The Source Protection Advisory Committee scheduled over 50 hours of meetings between late November 2002 and early February 2003 and is expected to produce a draft framework for the government's consideration by early February 2003.

CELA will be reviewing and publicly commenting on the source protection framework once the government releases it for consultation which is expected to happen in early spring, 2003. In CELA's view, source protection, as the first barrier in a multi-barrier approach to protection of drinking water, is critical to the safety of our future water supplies. CELA will be advocating linkage between the source protection framework and other recent provincial government water initiatives, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Nutrient Management Act  and the  Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act (see linked files below).

For example, one of CELA's main concerns with Bill 175 (formerly Bill 155), the Sustainable Water and Sewage Systems Act had been that as drafted and introduced, it did not include source protection in the defined "components of full cost" under that legislation. After submissions by CELA and others in writing to the Standing Committee, that deficiency was addressed. Regulated entities under that legislation will now be required to include source protection financing in their full cost reports and full cost plans. The source protection amendments to the Bill, which has now passed Third Reading, is an extremely important part of ensuring that source protection will have sustainable funding into the future.

Theresa McClenaghan is a CELA lawyer.