The Drinking Water Source Protection Program, under the Clean Water Act, 2006, is part of the multi-barrier approach to ensure clean, safe, and sustainable drinking water for Ontarians, by protecting sources of municipal drinking water such as lakes, rivers and well water. Established by the Government of Ontario, the program resulted in the development of science-based assessment reports and local source protection plans by multi-stakeholder source protection committees, supported by Source Protection Authorities.
Compiled by Source Protection Coordinator Kelsey Guerette and Source Protection Assistant Tessa Latchmore, what follows is the first in a series of articles outlining some of the Best Practices for maintaining the health of our lakes, rivers, streams, and our drinking water.
Series 1: Introduction to the Best Practices
Certain drinking water systems and water sources in the Cataraqui Source Protection Region (and across Ontario) are not required to meet the regulatory standards of the Clean Water Act or the Safe Drinking Water Act. These include private drinking water wells.
The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has provided an informational guide to protect and maintain these systems in the 2022 Best Practices for Source Water Protection document.
This development of The Best Practices for Source Water Protection aims to ensure drinking water safety, sustainability, and security for future generations. The program can assist in educating homeowners, communities, and municipalities on how to keep their drinking water safe as well as manage or mitigate potential threats to their drinking water system. If you own a non-municipal water system, you are responsible for the quality and quantity of your own water supply.
The Best Practices can assist individuals in assessing their local settings to determine the vulnerability of their drinking water source. For example, take a look at the type of soil on your property and how well the water passes through it (e.g., when it rains, does it collect in ponds, or does it absorb quickly). This is referred to as permeability of the soil. This relates to how quickly contaminants can reach your private well water from where they may have been released to the environment. The more permeable the soil is, the faster water and potential contaminants are absorbed and can reach your drinking water system. Using the Best Practices, landowners with high soil permeability can ensure they have an action plan in place in the event of a spill or contamination. For an introduction to Risk Management please visit: Source Water Protection - Introduction to Risk Management (cataraquiconservation.ca). Other best practices to manage and/or mitigate potential drinking water threats include:
- Ensure septic system are functioning properly.
- Properly store and manage any on-site and manage any on-site sources of potential contamination, such as pesticides and fuel oil tanks: Source Water Protection - Home Heating Fuel Risk Management (cataraquiconservation.ca)
- Choose native plants and landscaping that may require less fertilizers and pesticides to maintain.
- Ensure proper sealing and decommissioning of nearby abandoned or unused wells.
- Self-evaluate the everyday practices and activities occurring around you and/or your community to assess the potential for on-site and off-site contaminants to your system.
- Talk to your neighbours and encourage good water stewardship and conservation practices in your community.
Why are the Best Practices for Source Water Protection Important?
To protect Ontarians, municipal and provincial governments, community organizations and landowners must work collaboratively, and all take responsibility for the protection of our drinking water sources. By participating in the Best Practices and proactively protecting drinking water sources you:
- Protect human health and the environment.
- Avoid the excessive cost of either cleaning up a contaminated drinking water source or having to find a new source of drinking water.
- Reduce the cost of water treatment for some contaminants.
- Extend the life of your system’s infrastructure.
- Make informed land use planning decisions.
- Increase public awareness and accountability of drinking water stewardship.
Over the coming months Cataraqui Conservation will be releasing education and outreach material to promote the Best Practices, such as updates to the website, a municipal forum, workshops, and more including the news articles, Best Practice for Source Water Protection: A Series, released each month on the Cataraqui Conservation website. Each news release will address an important aspect of the Best Practices such as, private well water testing, septic system maintenance, ground, and surface water protection zones and more!
For more information on the Best Practices and Source Water Protection in the Cataraqui Region please visit:
Best practices for source water protection | Ontario.ca