In May 2000, seven people died and over 2,300 became ill in Walkerton, Ontario as a result of drinking contaminated water from the municipal water supply. This tragedy sparked a major government inquiry headed by Justice Dennis O’Connor. In his report, Justice O’Conner recommended that source protection planning be accomplished under the leadership of the Ministry of the Environment and that the Ministry have final approval authority for the locally developed plans. He also recommended that the process be locally managed by conservation authorities. Conservation authorities are local planning bodies that work at the watershed scale in partnership with municipalities and other stakeholders. Assessments are necessary at the watershed scale to highlight cumulative effects.
The Halton Region (Conservation Halton) and the Hamilton Region (Hamilton) Conservation Authorities comprise the Halton-Hamilton Source Protection Region. The Halton Region Conservation Authority is designated as the lead; however, the two authorities are managing the program jointly. The conservation authorities are identified as source protection authorities in the Clean Water Act, 2006. They coordinate the program in an open and transparent way, have established and support a locally appointed source protection committee, and support municipalities and other involved or affected stakeholders in the Region.
Ontario Regulation 284/07 under the Clean Water Act, 2006 defines two source protection areas in the region and designates the participating municipalities in each, as follows:
- Halton Region Source Protection Area - City of Hamilton, Township of Puslinch, Regional Municipality of Halton, Regional Municipality of Peel
- Hamilton Region Source Protection Area - City of Hamilton, Township of Puslinch
All municipalities in the two tier systems within the source protection region’s boundaries have been included in the process and have worked collaboratively to develop the source protection plans. Additional municipalities involved in the process are the County of Wellington, City of Burlington, Town of Oakville, Town of Milton, Town of Halton Hills, Regional Municipality of Niagara, and Town of Grimsby.