Source Water Protection
Water Management
Watershed Planning, Development & Permits

What is Source Water Protection?

Source water protection is simply protecting water resources such as lakes, rivers and groundwater, from contamination or overuse. Water is critical to all aspects of our lives, including health, recreation and development. Protecting the sources of our water is important to ensure that there is enough safe water for all our uses - now and in the future.

What is Drinking Water Source Protection?
Drinking Water Source Protection is a derivative of Ontario's Clean Water Act and calls for the development and implementation of locally developed plans that protect current and future sources of municipal drinking water systems. Please visit the Drinking Water Source Protection section of the NBMCA website for more information on this project.

What are some water sources?

Our water comes from two major sources: surface water and groundwater. Surface water includes lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. Groundwater includes underground aquifers (which we generally assess through wells). It is important to realize that groundwater and surface water are interconnected, flowing from one to the other.


Why is it important to protect sources of drinking water?

We need to protect the sources of our water in order to safeguard the public health of our residents and ensure there is enough water for all. Over two million residents in Ontario get their water directly from surface or groundwater sources and do not have access to treatment systems. In addition, treating water for drinking is very costly. As a result, conventional water treatment methods cannot always remove many hazardous chemicals.


Don't we have an unlimited supply of fresh water in Canada?

We do not have an infinite supply of water on our planet. Most of the water we use is recycled through the natural water cycle. Some of the water we use is thousands of years old. However, our supply of groundwater can be depleted if water is taken out of the ground more quickly than it can become naturally recharged. Surface water that becomes heavily polluted can also be costly or nearly impossible to clean.


What is the best way to protect source water?

  • We protect sources of water by managing the human and natural influences on them. We need to prevent contaminating or overusing our water resources.
  • Water flows within watersheds, therefore it is best to manage our water resources on a watershed basis.
  • As water flows across the watershed, it crosses forests, farmlands, towns and cities. Along the way it is affected by different activities.
  • The fewer negative impacts on our sources of water throughout the watershed the better the chance that the water coming out of our taps will be healthy.  Protecting our sources of drinking water is absolutely essential to our health.             

How are our sources of water threatened?

  • Both the quality of our water and the amount available can be threatened by different activities. Some of the threats to our water include:
  • Natural contaminants
  • Irresponsible land use activities which contaminate our water or take too much out.
  • Urban development can make it difficult for water to filter into the ground in order to replenish groundwater sources. When this happens, water just flows across the surface of land rather than percolating down to aquifers.
  • Air pollution from vehicles, coal plants, industries and other sources fall directly on surface waters or enter water sources through surface runoff.
  • As a result of climate change, there is also concern that the warming of the Earth's atmosphere will reduce the amount of water available in lakes, rivers and streams due to reduced precipitation and increased evaporation.

Does source water protection take place today?

  • Working closely with the province, municipalities, landowners and other local groups, Conservation Authorities already plan and deliver watershed management programs and services for many watersheds in Ontario. This work needs to expand.
  • Conservation Authorities collect data, carry out studies, map our resources and monitor the state of our watersheds daily.
  • Conservation Authorities believe in the importance of involving the people living in watersheds in making decisions about the best way to ensure there are healthy and sustainable resources now and in the future.