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Drinking water source protection

Safeguarding our drinking water sources from potential contamination and overuse

Drinking water source protection in Ontario:

Our focus is on preventative and proactive planning.

Local source protection plans protect municipal drinking water from potential contamination and overuse. Municipalities, conservation authorities, and provincial ministries and agencies all share responsibility for safeguarding our drinking water sources.

Care and maintenance

We all have a role to play in caring for our drinking water. Learn about best management practices and steps you can take to ensure drinking water stays safe and clean:

Learn more about drinking water source protection:

Contact us

If you have a question, need more information, or think source protection plan policies might affect you, email us or call 905-795-7800, extension 4685.

Other information

Local watershed-based source protection plans include policies that address 22 activities identified by the province as threats to the quality and quantity of municipal drinking water sources.

For more information about the background science and the local source protection plans that apply to designated vulnerable areas in Peel, refer to:

A source protection plan protects the area around municipal wells and surface water intakes. These are called vulnerable areas.

Vulnerable areas around sources of municipal drinking water have been identified where certain activities could pose a water quality or quantity threat. Under specific circumstances, activities may be prohibited or need to be managed.

Use the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks interactive Source Protection Information Atlas to see if you’re in a designated vulnerable area where source protection plan policies apply. If you’re not sure if source protection plan policies affect you, email us or call 905-795-7800, extension 4685 for us to confirm.

Proposed development in vulnerable areas may be subject to source protection plan policies under specified circumstances. For that reason, a screening is required before an application can be approved.

If the property is located within a designated vulnerable area, you must complete and submit a Source Protection Plan Policy Applicability Screening Form. The building or planning office that’s responsible for assessing your application will tell you if a screening must take place. Email us for a copy of the screening form.

Our Risk Management Office will review the submission and communicate any source protection policy requirements. In some cases, we might ask for additional information about the proposed land use or activity.

Our Risk Management Office will provide you with a written statement confirming source protection clearance or a notice to proceed under Section 59 of the Clean Water Act. Some activities may be prohibited as proposed or require a risk management plan. Depending on the level of risk associated with the proposed development, you might need to provide additional documents or studies to support the application.

If proposed activities are prohibited or regulated through source protection plan policies, our Risk Management Office will provide you with detailed feedback to ensure source protection concerns are addressed.

The Region of Peel’s Risk Management Office carries out the duties and enforcement responsibilities of Part IV (Regulation of Drinking Water Threats of the Clean Water Act.

Our municipal staff are trained to standards set by provincial regulation, certified, and appointed as Risk Management Officials (RMOs) and Risk Management Inspectors (RMIs).

RMOs and RMIs ensure the requirements under the Clean Water Act are met and are responsible for administering and enforcing certain policies set out in the local source protection plans.

This includes:

  • Reviewing development applications in vulnerable areas to ensure land use compatibility with source protection plan policies.
  • Negotiating legally binding risk management plans to regulate how certain activities are undertaken on a specific property.
  • Enforcing prohibition policies.
  • Conducting site inspections.
  • Facilitating education and outreach engagement initiatives.
  • Ensuring that information about land use activities in vulnerable areas is accurate.

Related resources: Risk Management Officials and Inspectors: Regulation of Drinking Water Threats under Clean Water Act Part IV.

Agricultural operations can potentially threaten drinking water due to possible runoff or leaked contaminants such as nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and pathogens.

Care and maintenance tips:

  • Plant native vegetation along rivers or streams to prevent erosion and runoff.
  • Use fencing to restrict livestock access to rivers or streams.
  • Maintain setbacks from rivers or streams when applying nutrients or pesticides
  • Store manure properly.
  • Store fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals properly and monitor containers for leaks.
  • Properly maintain private water wells and decommission abandoned wells.

Related resources:

Storing oil and fuel

Handling and storing of oil and fuel could pose a potential threat to our drinking water sources. Fuel storage tanks can leak, and spills could contaminate our groundwater and surface water.

Care and maintenance tips:

  • Check regularly for signs of tank corrosion.
  • Ensure that your tank is properly maintained.
  • Remove unused tanks and fill or vent pipes.
  • Replace your fuel tank with a double-walled or double-bottomed tank and install a drip tray alarm on an indoor tank.

Related resources:

Private wells

Unused or poorly maintained private wells can transport contaminants to groundwater sources.

It’s your responsibility to protect and maintain a private well on your property.

Care and maintenance tips:

  • Have your active well inspected regularly by a licensed well contractor.
  • Make sure your well has a proper cap to guard against potential surface contamination or pests.
  • Have your water tested regularly.
  • Have your unused well properly decommissioned by a licensed well contractor.

If you have an old, unused private residential well, you might qualify to have your well decommissioned for free through our Private Well Abandonment Program.

Related resources:

Septic systems

If you have a septic system, ensure it’s functioning properly.

Poorly maintained septic systems can leak contaminants into groundwater and surface water, potentially threatening our drinking water sources.

Care and maintenance tips:

  • Be mindful of what you put into your septic system. Use septic-friendly cleaning products.
  • Do not pour grease, food, paint, pesticides, or toxic chemicals down your drain.
  • Know where your tank and leaching bed are located and avoid parking vehicles on or driving over your tank and leaching bed.
  • Do not construct driveways, buildings, or pools on or near any part of the septic system. Keep trees and shrubs away from the leaching bed.
  • Have your septic tank pumped out at the appropriate frequency (generally every 3 to 5 years). Keep a record of your pump-out so you’ll know when to schedule another.
  • Know the signs of a failing septic system. Carry out routine surface checks of your septic system to ensure that there are no soggy areas or ‘break-outs’ of sewage on the surface of the ground.
  • Efficient water use can improve the operation of your septic system. If you have a lot of household laundry, try to spread your water usage throughout the week rather than doing multiple loads of laundry in one day.

Related resources:

The potential for sodium chloride runoff from road salt and snow storage can impact the quality of our groundwater and surface water sources.

Care and maintenance tips:

  • Always shovel before applying salt and avoid using salt excessively.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s direction for applying de-icing products.
  • Do not apply salt when the temperature falls below -10°C (14°F). Applying salt when it’s this cold will not melt ice.
  • Ensure contractors are using best management practices for snow removal and de-icing.
  • Ensure snow is piled away from storm sewers, septic beds, and wells.

Related resources: