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What is drinking water source protection?
Source water is the raw, untreated water that we take from lakes, rivers and underground aquifers to supply people with drinking water. “Drinking Water Source Protection” or “Source Water Protection” means protecting these sources of drinking water from contamination and overuse. The focus is on prevention!
The Need for Drinking Water Source Protection
- Water treatment is not always enough. Water treatment systems do not remove all contaminants from water, particularly chemicals such as fuels and solvents. The safest approach is to prevent contamination.
- Prevention saves money. It is much cheaper to keep water clean than it is to try and remove contaminants. For example, a 2010 spill from a home heating oil tank in Eastern Ontario cost about $1 million to clean up.
- Contamination can ruin a water source forever. Sometimes contamination cannot be cleaned up and a water supply must be shut down.
- Source protection has other benefits. Clean and plentiful water also supports tourism, recreation, business development and fish and wildlife habitat - all of which are important to our local economies.
The Clean Water Act
The purpose of the Clean Water Act, 2006 is to protect existing and future sources of drinking water. Source Water Protection is the first barrier in a multi-barrier approach to protecting the water in Ontario’s lakes, rivers and underground aquifers.
What are Source Protection Plans?
The source protection plans contain policies to protect local drinking water sources. The Maitland Valley and Ausable Bayfield Source Protection Plans, which took effect on April 1st, 2015, were developed by a local source protection committee. The policies range from prohibition of activities that threaten drinking water, to education policies that encourage best management practices. Most of the policies in the Maitland Valley and Ausable Bayfield source protection plans apply only in wellhead protection areas. These are zones immediately surrounding municipal wells.
In these protection zones the water sources are particularly vulnerable to contamination from activities such as fuel storage, septic systems, chemical storage, and application of pesticide, fertilizer, and manure. Source protection plan policies regulate these types of activities to prevent potential contamination.
For more information about wellhead protection areas, and how to protect source water, download the factsheet.
Am I located near a municipal well?
To find out if you are located near a municipal well, go to www.sourcewaterinfo.on.ca and click on the "Maps" heading. Use the interactive map or select your local municipal well from the list of drinking water systems.
Building and/or development near the municipal wells
If you are applying for a building permit or a zoning change, you may be required to obtain a Restricted Land Use (RLU) Notice if your property falls within the wellhead protection area of a municipal well. If you are located within wellhead protection area A, B or C, you may need to complete a Restricted Land Use Submission Form, and provide it to your local risk management official. The risk management official will screen the submission to ensure that the proposal will not create a threat to the municipal water supply. The risk management official must issue you a notice before your application can proceed. Contact your Building Official or your local risk management official for more information. The Restricted Land Use Submission form can be downloaded here: http://www.sourcewaterinfo.on.ca/risk-management-office/
Mandatory Septic Inspections
If your home has a septic system and is located near a municipal well, your system requires an inspection every five years. This is a new requirement under the Ontario Building Code to support the protection of municipal drinking water sources. Septic Inspectors will contact you if an inspection is required on your property.
Road Signs: Drinking Water Protection Zone
These signs are appearing across Ontario to raise awareness about our drinking water sources and to protect our health. You may see the signs as you enter and exit the drinking water protection zone surrounding the municipal well.
Governments at the provincial and local level are placing signs where a pollution spill could have a significant negative impact on our drinking water.
An important part of protecting water supplies is knowing where our water is most vulnerable to contamination. The new road signs will help to create public awareness and remind us that our actions and activities in these sensitive areas matter.
For more information on:
- Drinking water source protection
- Factsheets on fuel, chemicals, agricultural activities, etc.
- The Source Protection Plans
- The Assessment Reports and maps
- To contact a Risk Management Official
Go to www.sourcewaterinfo.on.ca or call 1-888-286-2610
Goverment of Ontario overview of drinking water source protection and the Ontario Clean Water Act www.ontario.ca/page/source-protection
Source Water Protection news http://www.sourcewaterinfo.on.ca/news/
Huron County Household Hazardous Waste http://www.huroncounty.ca/public-works/waste-management/