Law Reform: Ontario's Clean Water Act

The final recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry, held in response to the drinking water contamination tragedy there in May of 2000, described the protection of drinking water sources – source water protection – as the essential first step in a multi-barrier approach to avoiding drinking contaminated water. 

CELA participated in both phases of the Inquiry on behalf of Concerned Walkerton Citizens, and afterwards, contributing to the passage of Ontario’s Clean Water Act.

This law establishes a participatory, evidence-based and community-driven process for developing enforceable plans that identify and protect municipal drinking water sources against significant threats to water quality or quantity (e.g. sewage works, landfills, manure application, livestock grazing, and handling or storage of fuel, pesticides, road salt, and other substances).

Below are detailed and summary publications, articles and media releases by CELA concerning the advocacy for and ultimate passage of Ontario’s Clean Water Act and related regulations and policy, including current advocacy for a review of the law under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights.

Photo credits: Lake Ontario (Rick Lindgren) and Drag River, Minden Hills (Anastasia Lintner)

Current Actions to Retain and Improve the Clean Water Act

CELA continues to advocate for the expanded application of the Clean Water Act to non-municipal systems such as private residential wells. Expanded application of the CWA is necessary to ensure mandatory protection of groundwater used by well clusters in hamlets, villages and towns. In some cases, such aquifers may supply drinking water for hundreds or even thousands of residents. 

CELA is urging the province to address this long-standing gap in the CWA and substantially improve Ontario’s Regulation 903 (Wells)

We echo the recommendations of Ontario’s Auditor General in her 2019 and 2014 annual reports and raising red flags about drinking water safety in many communities and First Nations across Ontario that are not served by municipal drinking water systems. 

CELA Media Releases and Blogs about improving the CWA

Protecting the Clean Water Act - ENGOs Responses to Bill 66 (Restoring Ontario's Competitiveness Act, 2018)

In late 2018, CELA joined dozens of environmental groups and thousands of concerned Ontarians in opposing Bill 66, a proposed law that would amend multiple provincial statutes with significant environmental implications. 

Bill 66 would allow municipalities to pass “Open for Business” planning by-laws that would be exempt from public notice, comment and appeal provisions in the Planning Act. Moreover, these bylaws would be automatically exempt from key environmental protection laws, plans and policies, including the Clean Water Act, the Greenbelt Act, the Great Lakes Protection Act, the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act, and several more. In response to widespread public pressure, the Ontario government announced in January of 2019 that it would remove these provisions from the bill.

From the CELA history books: Advocacy for and Passage of the Clean Water Act and associated regulations

Publications, Presentations