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The Cataraqui Source Protection Committee

Under the Clean Water Act, Source Protection Committees were established to carry out drinking water source protection for each of the 19 Source Protection Areas or Regions in Ontario (see Map). The Cataraqui Source Protection Committee is responsible for monitoring processes associated with the gathering of source protection information, assessing threats, developing policies, and supporting implementation of the comprehensive Source Protection Plan for the Cataraqui Source Protection Area. The Source Protection Committee representation includes municipal, economic, and other public interest sectors such as environmental organizations, Lake Associations, and the general public.

map of source proection committees in ontario

The Cataraqui Source Protection Committee (SPC) plays an integral role in drinking water protection in the Cataraqui Source Protection Area. To shed light on the important work that the SPC does, this month’s installment of the Best Practices for Source Water Protection Series will highlight two members of the Cataraqui SPC and discuss how they exhibit and promote drinking water protection in their own communities. What follows is an interview with two current SPC members: Kim Sytsma and Luke Macdonald.  

Kim Sytsma (KS) represents the Economic Sector – Agriculture on the Cataraqui Source Protection Committee. Kim and her husband Charlie have been running a cow and calf operation in the Athens area since 1980 and were awarded the Royal Bank of Canada Environmental Stewardship Award in 2010. Kim has been a member of the Beef Farmers of Ontario Board of Directors for over twenty years. She also sat on the Canadian Cattlemen’s Board of Directors.

Luke McDonald (LM) represents the western municipalities (Loyalist Township and Greater Napanee) within the Cataraqui Source Protection Area as their representative on the Cataraqui Source Protection Committee. Working for Loyalist Township as the Engineering & Environment Manager, Luke is responsible for overseeing major capital projects including the two water treatment plants within the Township, as well as engineering development approvals, and the Township Climate Action Plan.

Q1: How long have you been a member, and why were you interested in being a part of the Cataraqui Source Protection Committee (SPC)?

KS: I have been a member since the beginning in 2007, I was a member of the Provincial Nutrient Management Committee before this. The Agriculture Community held an election for names to put forward to the Minister for the SPC to represent the Agriculture Community. I was one of the names put forward.

LM: I joined recently in January 2023. I joined as part of my job function at Loyalist Township as the Engineering Manager to represent the Western Municipalities. It’s been a great learning experience for me and I’m happy to be doing it.

Q2: How would you describe the role and mandate of the SPC?

KS: My role is to liaison, to put forward a farmer’s perspective, and to let the committee know what is going on in the farming community in regard to source water.

LM: I see the Committee providing a first line of defense by providing clean drinking water to our communities. There are a lot of different facets for providing clean drinking water. I take my approach to my role on the committee similar to my occupation with Loyalist Township, which one of the big things we do is being the utility provider. We are the ones treating and distributing the water, so working with the source protection side of things really helps us in that we can understand where we are actually taking our drinking water from and, we can treat and distribute as necessary.

Q2: What do you enjoy most about being on the SPC?

KS: Learning. Learning ways to better protect source water, learning about risks and how to mitigate risk in areas I was not familiar with such as golf courses and municipalities for example.

LM: It’s been a really great experience for me so far. I didn’t realize the level of detail that went into all the source protection plans and the action items. It really helps me, as when I first started engineering, I was tasked with figuring something out, and I went down a deep hole that led me through source protection plans and I read all the background information, and I didn’t have the framework to understand what is really necessary. Being on the Committee has helped all the different elements of my job come together, and it has been interesting.

Q3: What sparked your interest in Source Water Protection (SWP) and the Best Practices?

KS: My interest started at a young age! I was taught by both my grandfathers. My dad’s family started farming near Charleston Lake in the late 1700s, my mom’s dad was the first Agriculture Representative in Leeds County in 1913, they instilled in me that my job is to leave the land, that includes water, in a better condition for the next generation when I leave this earth. In my role as the Chair of the Leeds Community Pasture Association, I take every opportunity to promote the Best Management Practices {Check out Part 1 of the series to learn more about the Best Practices: Best Practices for Source Water Protection: A Series ( The Pasture is nestled on Beverly Lake - we have an obligation to be a good neighbour, protect the lakes and our neighbours’ wells.

LM: Source water protection has always been present in my professional life, but I didn’t really understand the full implication or importance of it. So, I guess it’s always something that has been in my world but not understood. To be able to be on the committee really helps close that loop for me in terms of my knowledge base.

Q4: As a member of the SPC, how do you promote drinking water protection?

KS: As farmers, my family spends more of their time outdoors, we see, we live, we make our living by protecting the water, land, and the environment. Farmers are a big part of the solution to fighting climate change.

LM: For me, it’s primarily through my occupation and as you know, it goes into a lot of the decisions that we make in Loyalist Township. A good example would be right now, we’re working on installing emergency generators at a pumping station and when we are reviewing the design, we were determining whether we wanted to go with diesel or natural gas, and we ultimately went with natural gas because it ranked more highly from a source water protection side. We don’t want to risk a diesel spill contamination.

Q5: Has being on the SPC changed how you view the everyday activities in your own life in terms of drinking water safety and the Best Practices?

KS: It has helped me become aware of the Best Practices as well as available upgrades to some of the practices we use on our own farm. It has also taught me some Best Practices from other occupations that we can and have adopted to use on our farm. I am also more aware of what I’m doing in my everyday life on the farm.

LM: It’s definitely helped me understand everything that goes into providing clean drinking water. As an Engineer, I tend to be a fairly technical person and I always looked at the process very straight forward – we treat the water, we distribute it, we keep it clean throughout the process, but there is so much more that goes into it beforehand, and being on the SPC has helped me learn more.

Q6: What do you think is important for the community to know about SWP and the Best Practices?

KS: I of course live in a very rural part of our Source Protection Area, so all of my neighbours are on private wells and each of them has a septic bed. We have a lot of new residents in our municipality (1/3 are new in the last 2.5 years) most have come from towns with municipal water and sewage. I think learning about the Best Practices to be able to protect their drinking water as well as their neighbours is the utmost importance.

LM: I think the biggest thing right now is awareness of SWP and the Best Practices. I don’t think there is very good awareness of all the work that goes into protecting source water and downstream of providing clean water. I feel like, as a society we could appreciate it more as most individuals turn on their tap and they have clean drinking water, and they do not think about what goes into that process.

Q7: If someone in the community is unsure about how to get involved in Source Water Protection or participate in the Best Practices, what advice would you give them?

KS: Check out the excellent website that Cataraqui Source Water Protection has. It will direct you to information on a vast number of things like health units’ advice on well protection, septic bed care and the Best Practices. As well it will point to other websites with more information and who to call for a particular need and of course, sign up for our newsletter.

LM: I’d have them reach out to the source protection coordinator and assistant at Cataraqui Conservation, depending on their level of interest and if they want to get involved more. Otherwise, if someone has questions about SWP, I will give them a quick overview of what it is and about the Walkerton Tragedy and all the steps taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and really showcase all the background work that goes into making sure that are we providing clean drinking water.

To learn more about Cataraqui’s Source Protection Committee and the members, please visit: Cataraqui Source Protection Committee – Clean Water Cataraqui