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Information about the Ontario Clean Water Act

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Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act was given Royal Assent on Oct. 19, 2006. The act came into force and a series of regulations to implement the law were issued on July 3, 2007.
The intent of the Clean Water Act is to protect existing and future sources of drinking water, as part of the government’s overall commitment to protecting and enhancing human health and the environment. Source protection represents the first barrier in the multi-barrier approach to providing a safe supply of water.
One of the most important parts of the CWA is that it requires source protection committees to develop science-based assessment reports and source protection plans at the local level. The source protection plans will consist of a range of policies that, together, will reduce the risks posed by water quality and quantity threats.
The Act is part of the Ontario government's commitment to implement all of the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry. The legislation directly addresses 12 and supports the implementation of 22 recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry on protecting drinking water at its source.
For the first time, communities will be required to create and carry out a plan to protect the sources of their municipal drinking water supplies. The Clean Water Act will:

  • Require local communities to look at the existing and potential threats to their water and set out and implement the actions necessary to reduce or eliminate significant threats.
  • Empower communities to take action to prevent threats from becoming significant.
  • Require public participation on every local source protection plan. This means everyone in the community gets a chance to contribute to the planning process.
  • Require that all plans and actions are based on sound science.
This legislation is designed to promote voluntary initiatives but does require mandatory action where needed. The legislation sets out a basic framework for communities to follow in developing an approach to protecting their municipal water supplies that works for them:
  • Identify and assess risks to the quality and quantity of municipal drinking water sources and decide which risks are significant and need immediate action, which need monitoring to ensure they do not become significant, or which pose a low or negligible risk.
  • Develop a source protection plan that sets out how the risks will be addressed. Broad consultation will involve municipalities, conservation authorities, property owners, farmers, industry, businesses, community groups, public health officials, First Nations and the public in coming up with workable, effective solutions.
  • Carry out the plan through existing land use planning and regulatory requirements or approvals, or voluntary initiatives.  Activities that pose a significant risk to drinking water sources may be prohibited or may require a site specific risk management plan. This plan will set out the measures that a property owner will take to ensure the activity is no longer a threat.
  • Stay vigilant through ongoing monitoring and reporting to measure the effectiveness of the actions taken to protect drinking water sources and ensure they are protected in the future.
The Clean Water Act and Regulations
Drinking Water Stewardship
The act creates a drinking water support program to help farmers and small rural businesses take action to reduce threats to local drinking water sources. The Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Panel has provided advice on how the stewardship program should be administered and allocated. In 2007-08, $7 million was made available for early action to protect drinking water sources and to support local education and outreach projects.

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