June 28, 2004

Source protection legislation

As part of its strategy to protect Ontario's drinking water from source to tap, the provincial government has released draft legislation on the development and approval of watershed-based source protection plans. The proposed Drinking Water Source Protection Act sets out provisions necessary for the development of source protection plans, including the establishment of source protection areas, the designation of source protection boards, and the creation of source protection committees. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of these boards and committees with regard to the development of assessment reports and source protection plans for each watershed in the source protection area.

In its watershed-based approach to source protection, the act addresses all sources of drinking water: inland lakes, rivers, groundwater and the Great Lakes. The provisions have been drafted based on the responses received to the White Paper on watershed-based source protection planning, released in February; they are also consistent with recommendations made by Justice O'Connor in his report on the Walkerton Inquiry.

Two expert advisory committees are working to develop further provisions necessary for implementing drinking water source protection legislation. The Implementation Committee is providing advice on tools and approaches to implement watershed-based source protection plans and is also examining a variety of funding mechanisms and incentives.

The Technical Experts Committee is providing advice on how to detect possible threats to drinking water quickly and address them effectively. The committee is providing advice on areas including:

*determining high, medium and low threats to water;

*developing effective risk management tools for various levels of threats;

*linking groundwater protection to surface water management;

*evaluating the effects of water-takings on the availability and quality of drinking water; and

*protecting future drinking water sources.

The proposed legislation has been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry for a 60-day public comment period ending August 22, 2004 (www.ene.gov.on.ca, registry reference No AA04E0002).

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