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Small Drinking Water Systems

If you provide unrestricted public access to your drinking water and do not get your water from a municipal drinking water system, you could be an owner or operator of a Small Drinking Water System (SDWS).

Learn about SDWS and requirements for ensuring the provision of safe drinking water to the public, and see a listing of SDWS advisories in Halton region. 

What is a Small Drinking Water System (SDWS)?

A SDWS may be a privately or publicly owned or operated drinking water system that provides non-municipal drinking water to the public. These systems use private wells and/or cisterns or surface water drawn from rivers, lakes or ponds and are common in rural areas. Some examples of SDWS may include:

  • seasonal trailer parks or campgrounds with six or more connections
  • restaurants on private water systems
  • hotels, motels and bed and breakfast accommodations
  • libraries
  • gas stations with public washrooms
  • recreational and athletic facilities
  • places of worship
  • places where service clubs and fraternal organizations meet
  • any place where the general public has access to a drinking water fountain, shower or washroom

Email or call 311 to contact Halton Region Public Health if you have questions or are unsure if your system is a SDWS.

Regulations and Inspections

Since December of 2008, public health units in Ontario have been responsible for inspecting and monitoring SDWS.

SDWS owners and operators must comply with Ontario Regulation 319/08: Small Drinking Water Systems (external link) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (external link), which sets out the minimum requirements to ensure the provision of safe drinking water to the public.

Owners and operators must also follow the actions or requirements specified in the directive issued by the Halton Region Public Health.

Public health inspectors conduct assessments of SDWS to determine their level of risk, and issue a site-specific directive as outlined in the Ontario Public Health Standards (external link) Safe Drinking Water and Fluoride Monitoring Protocol and Small Drinking Water Systems Risk Assessment Guideline. The directive may include requirements for sampling and testing frequency, treatment and treatment equipment, operational checks, record maintenance, operator training and signage posting.

Public health inspectors also monitor SDWS to ensure the requirements outlined in the regulations and the site-specific directives are met, and that all adverse water quality incidents are investigated and appropriate corrective actions are taken to protect the public from unsafe water.

Notice of Operation

A SDWS owner/operator may not supply water to the public without first obtaining permission from Halton Region Public Health.

Specific information must be provided to the Medical Officer of Health (MOH) in a number of circumstances including, but not limited to, opening or re-opening a SDWS after a 60-day closure, or after the construction, installation, alteration or extension of the SDWS. To comply with this requirement, visit the Notification to Public Health of Business Opening, Reopening or Renovation page for more information.

Operator Training

SDWS operator training is provided by the Walkerton Clean Water Centre (external link) (WCWC). Please consult with your area public health inspector on the appropriate operator training for your system.

Adverse Water Quality Incidents and Reporting

Owners and operators of SDWS are required to report incidents of adverse water quality to Halton Region Public Health immediately by calling 311. An inspector is available to take these reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition the owner/operator must:

SDWS Advisories in Halton Region

A boil water advisory or drinking water advisory may be issued by either the operator or Halton Region Public Health in response to an adverse test result, adverse observation or outbreak event associated with the water system. A listing of SDWS advisories in Halton region is included below. SDWS advisories are posted for eight years for high risk drinking water systems and for four years for medium or low risk small drinking water systems.

Additional Resources

Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 (external link)
Clean Water Act, 2006 (external link)
Ontario Regulation 169/03: Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards (external link)
Licensed Laboratories (external link)
Well Record Request form (external link)

Email or call 311 to contact Halton Region Public Health if you have questions or are unsure if your system is a SDWS.