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The Clean Water Act

Remember ... In 2002, Justice Dennis O’Connor released a report in response to the Walkerton inquiry containing recommendations for the protection of drinking water in Ontario. As a result, the Government of Ontario implemented the Clean Water Act, 2006 to safeguard drinking water from the “source to the tap”. For more information on the Clean Water Act, 2006 visit the Ministry of the Environment’s websiteExternal Link

The Clean Water Act Defined

The Clean Water Act, 2006, (CWA) was created by the Ontario Government, to help protect municipal drinking water sources from contamination through a multi-barrier approach. 

As shown in Figure 1, safe drinking water is provided through a preventative risk management approach which has multiple barriers in place to eliminate or reduce the risk of potential water contamination. 

It includes protecting the water source (groundwater or surface water), ensuring effective water treatment and preventing water quality deterioration in the water distribution system.

Multibarrier Approach

Figure 1: The Multi-Barrier Approach.  Source: CCME, From Source to Tap: The Multibarrier Approach to Safe Drinking Water External Link

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The CWA establishes a locally-driven, scientific, collaborative planning process for the protection of drinking water sources. A key focus in this act is the preparation of locally developed terms of reference, science-based assessment reports and Source Protection Plans. The CWA sets out a basic framework for developing Source Protection Plans within each Source Protection Region.

The Basic Framework

Developing Source Protection Plans - The Basic Framework

1. Identify

2. Address

Identify and assess risks to the quality and quantity of municipal drinking water sources. Decide which risks are significant and need immediate action. Monitor other low or moderate risks to ensure they do not become significant. Develop a Source Protection Plan that sets out how the risk will be addressed. Involves municipalities, conservation authorities, landowners, farmers, industry, businesses, community groups, public health officials and the public in coming up with workable, effective solutions.

3. Prevent

4. Monitor

Implement the Source Protection Plan through existing land use planning, regulatory requirements or approvals, or voluntary initiatives. Some areas may require a site specific risk management plan: This plan will set out the measures that a property owner will need to take to ensure the activity is no longer a threat. Measure the effectiveness of the actions in the Source Protection Plans taken through ongoing monitoring and reporting to ensure the protection of municipal drinking water sources.

Roles and Responsibilities defined by the CWA

Protecting our water involves the co-operation and input of a variety of different members, groups and organizations including, but not limited to, the Ministry of the Environment, Source Protection Authorities, Source Protection Committees, Regional and Local Municipalities, Private Landowners, Businesses and the Public. 

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Source Protection Authority

In most cases, the Ministry of the Environment has appointed the Source Protection Authority to lead the development of the Source Protection Plans.

The Source Protection Authority is typically the local Conservation Authority board(s).  The authority establishes the Source Protection Committee and provides support to the Committee. 

Source Protection Committee

The Source Protection Committee is made up of representatives from the business sector (agricultural, aggregates, fuel, etc.), non-government environmental organizations and municipalities. The Committee is responsible for leading the development of the “terms of reference”, drinking water threat assessment reports and Source Protection Plans for the Source Protection Region.

For more information on the Committees which are developing Plans affecting Halton Region, including a list of current members and contact information, please visit the following Source Protection Committee webpage links:


Municipalities will be responsible for implementing the Source Protection Plans developed by the Source Protection Committees to reduce the potential municipal drinking water risks posed by threat activities being carried out in areas under their jurisdiction.

Private Landowners/Businesses/Public

Individual property owners and businesses will be required to address the activities deemed significant drinking water threats where carried out within municipal surface water intake and wellhead protection areas.

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