Protecting Ontario’s Drinking Water – Watershed-Based Source Protection Planning Q’s and A’s and an Implementation Check List Q. What is Watershed-Based Source Protection for Drinking Water? A. Source protection was described by Justice O’Connor in the Walkerton Inquiry report as a necessary first barrier in a multi-barrier approach to protecting drinking water.  A multi-barrier approach starts with protecting existing and future sources of drinking water and then subsequently implements other protective measures such as monitoring and treating drinking water. Watershed based source protection, which is what Justice O’Connor recommended, recognizes that source protection must be done in the context of the watershed.  A watershed is a defined catchment area for streams, rivers and lakes.  Watersheds will cross municipal and other political boundaries, and as a result the municipalities, First Nations and other levels of government in the defined watershed will have to cooperate in the development of a watershed based source protection plan. Q. Do we have Watershed-Based Source Protection for Drinking Water yet in Ontario? A. Not yet.  We have 22 recommendations from the Walkerton Inquiry Report that deal with source protection.  The provincial government, after receiving that report, committed to implementing all of Justice O’Connor’s recommendations.  Thereafter, in November, 2002, the provincial government appointed an Advisory Committee on Watershed-Based Source Protection Planning to develop a “framework” or basic outline for watershed-based source protection planning.  The Canadian Environmental Law Association sat on the province’s 18 member advisory committee.  That Advisory Committee met intensively over four months and released a report with 55 recommendations to proceed with watershed-based source protection planning (“the Framework”).  The government then consulted the public on the Framework as the Advisory Committee had suggested.  In January, 2004, the current government appointed two necessary committees, one on Source Protection Implementation and the other a Source Protection Technical Committee to give the government advice on the technical and implementation details of water shed based source protection.  In February, 2004, the current government released a White Paper to consult on source protection planning legislation and on a water taking policy.  See http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/programs/3585e01.pdf and items 8 and 9 below for more information. CELA is encouraging the government to expeditiously begin to implement the April 2003 recommendations of the Source Protection Advisory Committee, to pass source protection legislation in early 2004, and to proceed quickly with the technical and implementation recommendations that will be provided by the two provincial source protection committees over the course of 2004. Q.  When should Watershed Source Protection Plans be done? A. The White Paper on Source Protection Planning (see above paragraph) suggests that all watersheds in the province have the first round of source protection plans done within two years of legislation.  So we have to get started!  Q. What can I do to hasten the adoption of Watershed-Based Source Protection in Ontario? A. CELA has issued an action alert calling on members of the public and organizations to comment on the February 2004 White Paper and to strenuously urge the provincial government to announce that it is accepting the recommendations of its Advisory Committee on Watershed-based Source Protection Planning.  You should continue to urge the government to immediately take the necessary steps to get source protection started.  Please write to the Premier, the Minister of Environment and to your local MPP as well as to the Opposition parties.  An address list of MPP’s is provided on the CELA web site.  See the Action Alert in the Related Information, linked below. Q. What can I do to help secure protection of vulnerable water sources in the meantime? A. You should work with your local municipality and conservation authority to ensure that they are immediately canvassing their most vulnerable water sources (both ground and surface waters) and taking interim measures to protect them until source protection plans can be completed.  Where necessary, the province can be asked to exercise its interim powers for protection of the most vulnerable water sources.  See Source Protection Options for Interim Risk Management, linked with Related Information, below. Q. How can I get involved in Drinking Water Watershed-Based Source Protection Planning?  A. Once the provincial government starts to take the necessary steps to pass legislation and implement watershed-based source protection planning, there will be myriad ways to be involved in source protection planning in your watershed.  If the Framework is adopted, some of those opportunities will include:

  • Input as to what the watershed boundaries should be and which conservation authority should lead the process in your watershed.
  • Input as to who should chair the Source Protection Planning Committee.
  • Members of the public representing various interests such as environment, agriculture and others will have to be selected for the Steering Committee.
  • Review of terms of reference for the Source Protection PlanParticipation on technical committees working on components of the Plan.
  • Participation in public meetings seeking information for the plans.
  • Review of draft Source Protection Plans.
  • Input to conservation boards and municipal councils about acceptance of the Plans.
  • Input to the Minister of the Environment prior to approval of the Plans.
  • Participation on specific implementation task groups once the Plan is approved.
  • Continued opportunities as municipal and provincial decisions are made that must be consistent with the Source Protection Plans.
Q. What has to be done to implement Watershed-Based Source Protection in Ontario? A. There are several items that the provincial government must do immediately in order to proceed with watershed-based source protection planning in accordance with the Advisory Committee’s Framework.  It’s a good idea to read the whole report, available on the Ministry of Environment's web site at: http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/techdocs/4383.htm. The following checklist includes some of the most immediate items that the provincial government must undertake and an indication of progress so far. Source Protection Implementation Checklist(current to March 19, 2004) 1. How to determine the vulnerable areas:  Immediately establish a working group of experts to agree on an Ontario-based threat assessment process which should be completed within six months.  This group must develop the definitions of “vulnerable area” and “sensitive water resource” that will have to be used in all planning areas.  (Recommendation 43) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • Yes
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
Minister Leona Dombrowsky announced the creation of the threat assessment committee and the implementation committee at the Latornell Conservation Symposium on November 14, 2003.  To see the announcement, go to http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/news/2003-1023/111401.htm  Membership in the committees is to be announced shortly. 2. Make drinking water source protection binding law:  Develop the needed legislation to establish the Framework and to make it mandatory in all watersheds in Ontario Amend other legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act, the Municipal Act, the Planning Act, the Nutrient Management Act, the Drainage Act, the Brownfields Statute Law Amendment Act and the Mining Act, etc., where necessary to be consistent with the source protection legislation (Recommendations 1, 7 and 9). Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • No
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
3. Act now on the worst dangers:  Take immediate action with respect to high-risk activities and land uses until source protection plans are approved and implemented.  For more in-depth information on presently available powers that the province and municipalities can use for interim source protection, See the separate hand out on interim source protection. (Recommendation 17) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • Yes
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
Minister Leona Dombrowsky announced the creation of the threat assessment committee and the implementation committee at the Latornell Conservation Symposium on November 14, 2003.  To see the announcement, go to http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/envision/news/2003-1023/111401.htm  Membership in the committees is to be announced shortly.  The announcement stated that “one of the committee’s first tasks will be to provide advice on new and existing roles and responsibilities of the province, municipalities and conservation authorities.”  4. Give local government the options and powers it needs:  Work with municipalities and other stakeholders to identify new municipal powers that should be developed for source water protection, and to identify funding sources.  (Recommendation 11) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • Yes
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
See the prior bullet for the commencement of this work. 5. Involve First Nations:  Establish a working relationship with First Nations and their technical designates with respect to source protection planning (Recommendations 15 and 16). Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • No
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
6. Don’t wait until every plan is perfect:  Start developing a model source protection plan, together with Conservation Ontario that will be used as a guide in the interim until source protection plans are completed.  (Recommendation 18) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • No
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
7. Don’t make protection funding totally dependent on fickle annual appropriations:  Start the process of negotiating funding sources in addition to the provincial government so that conservation authorities and municipalities will have long-term stable, sustainable funding for source protection planning and implementation.  (Recommendations 29 and 33, 34, 35) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • Yes
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
See the November 14th, 2003 announcement of the formation of the implementation committee described above. 8. Set the boundaries:  Seek stakeholder and public input on the actual source protection plan watershed boundaries.  (Recommendation 21) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • Yes
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
The government has issued a White Paper for public comment on Source Protection Planning and Water Takings.  Comments are due April 12, 2004 under the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry.  To see the White Paper, go to http://www.ene.gov.on.ca/programs/3585e01.pdf   The White Paper includes possible boundaries for source protection plan watersheds and is seeking public comment. 9. Who is in charge:  Designate the lead conservation authorities for each watershed-based source protection plan area and appoint the chair of each source protection planning committee.  (Recommendations 22 and 24) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • Yes
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
The White Paper on Source Protection Planning (see item 8 above) indicates that the government is consulting with Conservation Ontario and others about potential lead conservation authorities for each watershed based source protection plan area.  If you have views on this topic, you should include them in your comments to government before April 12th, 2004.  Follow the link in item 8 above for information as to the address and contact to whom to send your comments  at page 4 of the White Paper. 10. Are our standards good enough:  Establish a process to peer review the Provincial Water Quality Objectives from the perspective of source water protection (Recommendation 48) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • No
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
11. Get information to the public:  Ensure that data is available and disseminated to the public (Recommendation 53) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • No
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
12. Are the plans working:  Work with stakeholders to identify the lead indicators to measure progress under source protection plans.  (Recommendation 54) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • No
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
13. Get the research started:  Establish sustainable funding for ongoing research into the sciences that support source protection (Recommendation 55) Has the government begun this recommendation yet?
  • No
Is this recommendation completed yet?
  • No
CELA will be updating this check list periodically to track when the government initiates these required actions and when they are completed.  Prepared by: Theresa McClenaghan, Counsel Canadian Environmental Law Association Updated March 19, 2004 CELA is an Ontario Legal Aid environmental law specialty clinic.  CELA thanks the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation for financial support for the Ontario Water Workshops education and outreach project conducted jointly by CELA and Great Lakes United.  

Title:Protecting Ontario’s Drinking Water – Watershed-Based Source Protection Planning
Q’s and A’s and an Implementation Check List
Resource Type:Background information, Fact Sheet
Date authored:March 19, 2004
Author/s:Theresa McClenaghan
Author Organization:CELA