drinking water protection zone road sign

Best Practices for Source Water Protection: Drinking Water Contaminants and Road Signs

Certain activities, such as chemical and fuel oil handling and storage, waste disposal and storage and septic systems, can pose a risk to drinking water if their pollutants are released into the environment. Pollutants, or contaminants are either:

  • Chemicals, such as solvents, metals, and pesticides
  • Biological pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa

Biological pathogens, like E. coli can make us sick, while chemicals can pose long-term health effects. For example, organic solvents are used to dissolve substances such as oils, resins and plastics and used in the production. Solvents can cause serious health issues, such as cancer. Great care is needed when using these substances to ensure they do not pollute our shared drinking water systems (For more information on how to properly dispose of hazardous waste please visit: The How To's of Hazardous Waste Disposal for Homeowners (cataraquiconservation.ca)).

To increase public awareness of nearby drinking water sources, as well as educate landowners on vulnerable drinking water areas and possible biological and chemical threats to drinking water, Drinking Water Protection Road Signs are installed on both provincial highways and municipal roadways. These signs mark where there is a protection zone, which is defined as certain amount of area around a surface water intake or well head, that require specific protective measures for natural water sources, such as groundwater, lakes, or rivers that provide municipal drinking water.

The signs identify zones along frequently traveled roads where accidental pollution spills could travel quickly to public drinking water sources and contaminate it. They also help create public awareness of the need to protect our local drinking water sources. The are several benefits to protecting drinking water at the source, such as:

  • Protects public health.
  • Reduces the cost of water treatment.
  • Ensures a long-term supply of clean water for economic growth.
  • Protects property values and supports tourism, recreation, and business development.
  • Avoids the need to find new drinking water sources if existing ones become contaminated or depleted.

In the event of an accidental spill of either chemical or biological contaminates, the road signs inform emergency responders of the need to alert appropriate authorities. For example, they are reminded to inform the Spill Action Centre (1-800-268-6060) as well as drinking water treatment plant operators so that water distribution can be temporarily suspended, if necessary.

Overall, the Drinking Water Protection Roads Signs promote public awareness on the importance of protecting local drinking water sources and highlight where our drinking water comes from! For more information on the Drinking Water Protection Road Signs and how to find one in your area please visit:

Drinking Water Source Protection (arcgis.com)

For more information on drinking water contaminates, and best management practices for your drinking water source please visit:

Best practices for source water protection | Ontario.ca