’50 in 50′ Series: Source Protection Plan – Protecting Drinking Water at the Source (2005)

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Lower Trent Conservation is celebrating its 50th anniversary! To commemorate this milestone occasion, we have released our ’50 in 50′ historical blog series. This special series features 50 articles highlighting some of the achievements, milestones and events of the past 50 years. We hope you enjoy them!

Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink. There is a warning in this old rhyme – we must protect our water supplies, both quality and quantity.

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The drought of 2016 gave us a taste of what dry conditions can mean – water use restrictions, wells drying up, and creeks running dry. And then there was the Walkerton incident, a tragic reminder of what can happen when a community’s drinking water supply becomes contaminated.

As plentiful as water can sometimes seem in a province crisscrossed by many streams and rivers and nestled along the shores of the Great Lakes, for Ontarians, clean water in the right place at the right time is an increasing concern.

In 2006, the Ontario Government introduced the Clean Water Act, legislation focusing on the protection of rivers, lakes, and groundwater that supply municipal drinking water systems. The call for legislation was in response to the tragic event that took place in Walkerton, Ontario in May 2000. Water contaminated by a deadly strain of E. coli bacteria made its way into the municipal water system. Seven people died and thousands became ill from drinking the contaminated water. As a result, the provincial government launched the Walkerton Inquiry. In 2002, Justice Dennis O’Connor revealed a number of recommendations with respect to protecting the Province’s drinking water sources. Among his recommendations, Justice O’Connor noted the importance of taking a “multi-barrier approach” to preventing contamination, starting with protecting water at its source. Hence, the term Source Protection was born.

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Under the Clean Water Act, nineteen source protection regions were established across Ontario. Each region has a Source Protection Committee to oversee its program. Locally, the Trent Conservation Coalition Source Protection Committee is comprised of multi-stakeholders from local municipalities, industry, agriculture, commerce, First Nations, environmental interests, and the general public.

Early in 2005, Lower Trent Conservation hired a Project Manager and launched its source protection program. Appointed as the lead for the source protection region, an area that spans 13,830 km2 covering the Trent and Ganaraska watersheds, Lower Trent Conservation began working with four neighbouring Conservation Authorities (Crowe Valley, Ganaraska Region, Kawartha Region, and Otonabee Conservation) and the community to protect sources of municipal drinking water.

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The Trent and Ganaraska Source Protection Plans were approved by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change in the fall of 2014 and came into effect on January 1, 2015. The Source Protection Plans are the result of years of research, data collection, and extensive consultation and collaboration with local government, potentially-affected stakeholders, and the general public. The Trent Conservation Coalition Source Protection Committee developed policies, with the aid of municipalities and other stakeholders, to ensure that identified activities cease to be, or never become, significant threats to the sources of our drinking water. Implementers of policies in the plan include municipalities, conservation authorities, and the provincial government.

For more information, or to see if and how the source protection policies apply to you, please visit http://trentsourceprotection.on.ca/.

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