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Groundwater Management

The management and protection of groundwater resources for sustainable development is a multi-stakeholder task. The ultimate goal is to promote and ensure the availability of clean water to sustain not just human needs into the future, but also to sustain ecological and biological functions and promote healthy watersheds across the province.

Several agencies have a role in the complex task of groundwater resource management and must work together to ensure that goals are met.

Groundwater Management
Bowmanville Marsh Photo: Canadian Wildlife Service

The province has a role in establishing programs, and providing direction, standards, technical guidelines and tools to agencies engaged in resource management. Municipalities are responsible for the supply of clean safe drinking water (surface or groundwater) to its residents and for the development and application of land-use policies to ensure the long-term sustainability of resources.

Conservation Authorities have a mandate to study the terrestrial, hydrological and biological components of the watershed to determine programs for conservation and restoration, to develop watershed plans and stewardship activities towards that goal, to regulate the interference of existing surface water channels and to control surface water flows so as to prevent pollution or reduce adverse effects. Other agencies such as NGO’s as well as the public also have less direct but important roles and key agencies need to work closely with them.

well Within the last decade, new challenges have underlined the need to work together, to share resources, to establish consistency, and to develop understandable policies that can be implemented and which are based on technically sound scientific principals and analyses. New drinking water legislation and associated standards, as well as revised regulations for water well construction (903) have resulted in the need for municipalities to delineate municipal well capture zones and develop and implement well head protection strategies, to upgrade their data systems to meet new reporting requirements and to update land-use policies and zoning by-laws to ensure protection of source water resources. Watershed plan requirements under the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act have presented new guidelines and deadlines for the development of watershed plans and official plan amendments for ORM headwater watersheds by conservation authorities and municipalities respectively. Source Protection Planning initiatives and associated watershed planning and management requirements will additionally serve to present new challenges to municipalities and conservation authorities.

York Peel Durham Toronto (YPDT) Groundwater Study

In an effort to advance an understanding and management of the groundwater system across a large part of southern Ontario, a partnership was developed between three regional municipal governments, the City of Toronto (York, Peel, Durham, Toronto - YPDT), and the nine conservation authorities located along the Oak Ridges Moraine (Conservation Authorities Moraine Coalition - CAMC).

The study, known as the YPDT Groundwater Study, has the Oak Ridges Moraine as a common feature of interest to all partner agencies. Goals of the study include the development of a comprehensive hydrologic database, a regional understanding of the Quaternary (glacial) geology, and the development of a leading-edge numerical groundwater model to be used as a tool for understanding groundwater and surface water systems across the study areas. Another significant component of the study is to set up consistent guidelines and policies for managing and protecting the groundwater resources across the study area.

Groundwater Management
YPDT Groundwater Study Photo: CLOCA

The YPDT Groundwater Management Study is an example of how several agencies have committed to working together to address the issues in a comprehensive consistent manner, building the science and tools necessary for water resource managers to answer the range of complex questions in a consistent and defensible manner.

At CLOCA, the YPDT partnership is serving to address several business needs while ensuring that the results of local programs under the C.A. mandate (Source Protection Planning, ORM watershed plan requirements, planning proposal and regulation review, groundwater monitoring, aquifer/ watershed mapping and watershed plans, well construction, and PTTW review) benefits and fits with all partner needs and objectives.

The YPDT working group efforts have resulted in the development of a series of geological and hydrogeological products as well as several standardized and improved groundwater management tools. These tools are used to assess the effects of land development on streams and groundwater resources, and quantify benefits of source water protection and other resource management initiatives.


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