Water Policies

Drinking water policy, as it impacts both quality and quantity, is for the most part set by the provincial government, with major responsibility residing with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). The MOE’s Drinking Water Ontario website is a point of access to a wealth of information on policies and regulations in Ontario.

All municipal drinking water systems (approx. 700 in Ontario) are regulated by the MECP. Owners and operators of municipal systems must ensure their systems—and the water their systems provide—meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Ontario’s Clean Water Act helps protect drinking water from source to tap with a multi-barrier approach designed to stop contaminants from entering sources of drinking water – lakes, rivers, and aquifers.  The Act requires local communities, through local Source Protection Committees, to assess existing and potential threats to their water, and then implement measures to reduce or eliminate these threats.

The Ontario Water Works Association is involved with the establishment and review of provincial government policies and programs affecting drinking water. OWWA Leaders regularly meet with senior staff of MECP’s Drinking Water Branch to discuss issues of concern.

Ontario’s municipal governments are responsible for policies that impact sourcing, treating and distributing drinking water. Residential and commercial/industrial water rates are established by the municipalities.

The federal government has jurisdiction related to fisheries, navigation, federal lands, and international relations with respect to the management of boundary waters shared with the United States International Joint Commission.

Environment Canada works closely with more than 20 other federal departments to address nationally significant freshwater issues.

For more details about policy and regulations there is no better place to start than the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks’ Drinking Water Ontario


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