Who protects drinking water? Source water protection basics

·2 min read

Who protects drinking water in Ontario?

Source protection committees are organizations with the responsibility to protect drinking water in Ontario. They are organized according to where ground and surface water flows across the province.

The system was created after drinking water in Walkerton was compromised by a combination of natural and human factors that resulted in seven deaths and thousands of people falling ill in 2000.

In response, the provincial government passed the 2006 Clean Water Act which delegated responsibility to protect the quality and quantity of drinking water to the 19 source protection committees.

The watersheds within the regions the committees cover are overseen by conservation authorities. When conservation authorities act under the Clean Water Act, they are considered Source Protection Authorities.

Waterloo Region is part of the Grand River watershed. This watershed follows the Grand River which begins in the Dufferin Highlands and ends in Port Maitland where it flows into Lake Erie.

Since the Grand River Conservation Authority is the largest of the four authorities in the Lake Erie region, it is designated as the lead conservation authority. Employees who monitor and work to keep drinking water clean and plentiful for the Lake Erie region are employees of the Grand River Conservation Authority, supported by the other three authorities and funded by the provincial government.

Along with the Grand River watershed, the three other watersheds that drain into Lake Erie in Ontario include:

Catfish Creek watershed in Elgin and Oxford Counties

Kettle Creek watershed which flows through Elgin County, Middlesex County, St. Thomas and London

Long Point Region watershed which includes main rivers in Elgin, Norfolk, Oxford, Brant and Haldimand counties.

The Clean Water Act lists activities that could be potential threats to drinking water. Source protection committees have authority to make plans addressing them, request changes to regulations and alter or block them.

More information can be found at sourcewater.ca

Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record