Q?

Does the Clean Water Act pose a threat to the privacy rights of rural property owners?

A.

Under the Clean Water Act, municipalities, conservation authorities, landowners, industry, businesses, farmers, community groups and the public have collaborated to develop a fair, effective plan to address local risks to drinking water.

Conservation Authorities already collect data, carry out studies, map resources and monitor the state of our watersheds daily. Conservation Authorities have a long history of working with landowners, farmers and municipalities in a mutually acceptable and respectful way and that is not going to change. We all need to work together to protect our water.

Conservation Authorities already have the authority to enter onto private property under Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act. Conservation Authority staff members seek permission of property owners prior to entering onto private property to monitor, assess, map, etc. Power of entry on private property is used only when absolutely needed.

Q?

Why does Ontario need the Clean Water Act and how will it protect Ontario’s drinking water?

A.

Everyone has a right to clean water and needs clean drinking water to survive. Unfortunately, history has shown us that if a community is not vigilant, contaminants can enter its drinking water supply, or the supply can be exhausted. Every community has a responsibility to make sure its children and their children are left with enough clean drinking water to survive. We must be able to trust our water sources.

The Clean Water Act sets above all else the concept of prevention as the first principle in the safeguarding of our drinking water for our communities and our health.

The Clean Water Act helps to reduce risks to municipal drinking water sources by addressing threats to drinking water quality and quantity. It establishes a locally driven, science-based, multi-stakeholder process to protect drinking water sources and promotes the notion of stewardship – the shared responsibility of all stakeholders to protect the integrity of local sources of public drinking water.

Q?

How is surface water vulnerability measured?

A.

To determine the vulnerability score for surface water intakes, researchers study how water moves in the area around each intake.  For a river intake, they look at how quickly water gets to the intake during high and low flows.  For a lake intake they study how the movement of water is affected by currents and winds,  For both types of intakes they identify streams, municipal storm sewers and rural drains that enter near the river or lake near the intake.

Intake protection zones (IPZs) are then drawn around the intakes and assigned vulnerability scores on a 10 point scale with 10 being the most vulnerable.

The intake protection zones are established for up to three contributing areas divided into times of travel zones.
• IPZ 1 is the area immediately upstream or adjacent to the intake (no more than 1 km away)
• IPZ 2 is the contributing area where contamination could reach the intake before an operator could respond (this is a minimum of 2 hours)
• IPZ 3 is the larger contributing area around the intake

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Q?

How is groundwater vulnerability determined?

A.

To determine the vulnerability scores for the area surrounding a well, researchers have to answer two questions.

  • How quickly does water move horizontally through the acquifer to the well?
  • How quickly does water move vertically from the surface of the ground down to the acquifer?  This is called the intrinsic vulnerability.

This information is used to draw a wellhead protection area or WHPA around each well.  WHPAs are divided into rings called Time of Travel Zones.  The innermost zone is a 100 metre circle.  The other zones are set at times of travel of 2 years, 5 years and 25 years.  Times of travel refer to how long it may take a contaminant to reach to well.

Researchers look at information like: the geology and porosity of the underlying rock and; well records that show the direction of groundwater flow to help them answer the questions.

The answers to the two questions are combined to come up with a vulnerability score on a 10 point scale for all the land within the WHPA for each well.

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Q?

What is a vulnerable aquifer?

A.

A vulnerable aquifer is an underground source of water that may be contaminated or is easily susceptible to contamination from human and/or natural sources. A vulnerable aquifer is often not protected by overlying layers of soil serving to slow the rate of water movement from the ground surface. Improperly constructed or maintained wells can also increase the vulnerability of an aquifer by providing a direct route for contaminants to enter the aquifer.

Q?

What is vulnerability?

A.

Vulnerability refers to how easily a well (or aquifer) or surface water intake can become polluted with a dangerous material. Researchers have studied each municipal well and intake to determine how vulnerable they are. There are seven municipal surface water intakes and four municipal wells in the Quinte region.

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Q?

What is a groundwater recharge area?

A.

A groundwater recharge area is an area where precipitation seeps into the ground and drains to the water table and underlying aquifers. Typically, these are isolated areas of significant deposits of sand and gravel, found throughout the Quinte Region, where high volumes of water can move easily into the ground thereby recharging the groundwater.

Q?

What is the Water Table and an Aquifer?

A.

The water table is the top of the aquifer.  An aquifer is an underground source of water. It is an underground area saturated with water. The water in an aquifer fills the spaces between the soil particles and rocks. It is a common misconception that our underground sources of water are underground lakes and rivers.

Q?

What is a surface water intake protection zone?

A.

A surface water intake is the structure through which surface water (water from lakes and rivers) is drawn for drinking water.  The surface water intake protection zone is the area of land and water surrounding the intake pipes that may be vulnerable to contamination.  This is the zone in which no contaminants should be introduced. More...

Q?

What is a wellhead protection area?

A.

A wellhead protection area is the areas above and below ground, surrounding a municipal well or well field that supplies a municipal drinking water system or other designated system. It is the area through which contaminants may move toward and reach the water well. More...

Q?

What is Source Water?

A.

Source water is untreated water taken from rivers, lakes or underground aquifers to supply private and public drinking water systems. (Another term for untreated water is 'raw' water.)

There are two types of source water: surface water and groundwater. Surface water is water that lays on the Earth's surface such as lakes, rivers and streams. It is drawn into a drinking water system through an intake pipe. Groundwater is the water beneath the Earth's surface found in the cracks and spaces between soil, sand and rock particles. It is drawn into a drinking water system through a well. Surface water and groundwater are interconnected and water flows from one to the other.

Q?

What is Source Water Protection?

A.

Source water protection is protecting water sources from overuse and contamination. This helps to safeguard public health. In Ontario, source water protection is carried out under the Clean Water Act, 2006. The goal of source water protection is to ensure we have enough clean drinking water for generations to come.

Source water protection is considered the "first barrier" of a multi-barrier approach to providing safe drinking water. Other barriers are effective water treatment, proper distribution and adequate water testing.

Source water protection also protects against overuse by determining how much water is available compared to how much is needed.

Q?

Why protect source water?

A.

Protecting water sources safeguards public health and our future water needs.

Other good reasons to protect water sources:

• It is important to prevent source water from becoming contaminated because water testing and treatment procedures are not perfect.
• Not all forms of contamination can be removed or treated (i.e. many chemical compounds).
• Many people in Ontario, especially in rural areas, are not connected to municipal water. These people supply their own drinking water from a private well or surface water intake. For these people, protecting source water from contamination may be the only barrier they have against contaminated drinking water.
• Source water protection is cost effective. It makes good economic sense to keep our water clean and protected rather than to have to pay to clean it up.
• Protected, abundant sources of water will allow our communities to plan properly for future development
• Protecting our water sources also means we will have clean abundant water for other uses like recreation.

Q?

What are potential threats to source water?

A.

Over the past few decades, people have come to realize that their actions and how they use their land and water can contaminate the environment. A number of these contaminants can get into surface and groundwater sources that people use for drinking water. Contaminants may include:
• Industrial emissions, spills and leaks,
• municipal sewage treatment discharges,
• landfill leachate,
• wastes from mining sites,
• on-site septic systems;
• leaking storage tanks (i.e. fuel oil and gas),
• urban runoff containing sediment, nutrients, bacteria, oil, metals, chemicals, pesticides,     herbicides, fertilizer, road salts, pet droppings and litter,
• agricultural runoff containing oil, grease, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, nutrients and manure, and
• bacteria and petroleum products from recreational boating.

It is often far more expensive to treat contaminated source water than it is to protect it from contamination. It costs much more to remediate contaminated groundwater than to protect it from contamination. We need to use water wisely to ensure that we have enough clean water now and in the future.

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Q?

How should we protect source water?

A.

We need to protect source water at the watershed scale. A watershed is an area of land that drains into a common river or stream. Surface water and groundwater sources are vulnerable to contamination from upstream activities and land uses; by protecting source water on a watershed scale, all upstream activities can be considered.

Developing a source protection plan for a watershed is an excellent way to identify steps that should be taken to protect local sources of drinking water. Source protection plans help municipalities and people within a watershed protect their local sources of drinking water. These plans aim to keep source water clean and encourage wise water use.

Source protection plans are based on sound science and are developed by a local Source Protection Committee with input from municipalities, stakeholders and the public.

Q?

Why are Conservation Authorities involved?

A.

For over 50 years, Conservation Authorities have been protecting, restoring and managing Ontario's water and land resources on a watershed basis. Quinte Conservation and other Conservation Authorities have the technical scientific, communications and administrative expertise required for source protection planning. The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change recognized this expertise and is funding Conservation Authorities to coordinate source water protection at the watershed level. Quinte Conservation supports the work of the local Source Protection Committee who worked with municipalities and stakeholders to develop the science-based source protection plan. Quinte Conservation now helps to facilitate the implementation of the approved Quinte Region Source Protection Plan.

Q?

Is the provincial government funding source water protection implementation?

A.

The Ontario Source Protection Municipal Implementation Fund was announced by the province on November 1, 2013.  Eligible activities include establishing the business processes and protocols required for successful Source Protection Plan implementation, amending municipal land use planning documents, communicating with affected landowners and developing education and outreach materials.

Municipalities with drinking water systems within the Quinte Source Protection Region received $55,000 to $75,000 in funding from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to help implement local actions to protect municipal drinking water sources. Collaboration between municipalities can earn up to $15,000 in additional funding.