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Action 4: Water Quality

Why is water quality important?

  • Water provides economic and social benefits and is the basis for healthy                                        and diverse ecosystems and communities. Water is used by humans for                           consumption and by industry to support our economy. It also supports ecological processes including aquatic life and aquatic ecosystems (MMAH, 2014).

  • In rural areas, sources of drinking water can come from surface water features or groundwater aquifers, and these sources are vulnerable to contamination or depletion. Drinking-water wells and intakes serve individual homes, clusters of homes and rural settlement areas.

  • Healthy shorelines provide a range of social, economic and environmental benefits. They help to control surface run-off and erosion and filter associated nutrients and harmful pollutants, therefore protecting water quality. Healthy shorelines also help regulate temperature and microclimate, screen noise and wind, preserve the aesthetic appeal of the landscape and provide many other cultural, social and economic benefits through recreation and tourism (MMAH, 2014). 

Sioux Narrows-Nester Falls: Case Study

  • The community of Sioux Narrows-Nester Falls is a small northern community that began implementing new zoning by-laws, never used before in their municipality, in order to maintain and improve water quality.

  • Sioux Narrows-Nester Falls added policies to their official plan relating to shoreline protection. A new implementing zoning by-law has established a minimum setback from shorelines for new development. 

Recommendations for rural municipalities:

  • Work with the conservation authority if it exists for your region to ensure that your source water protection plan is being properly incorporated. Efforts to support clean drinking water supplies through source water protection planning and other mechanisms (e.g. mandatory septic system re-inspection by-laws) are important. Link

  • Work with the conservation authority to ensure that planning efforts can incorporate a focus on watersheds/sub-watersheds. This can contribute to an ecologically-focused approach to protecting water resources and other natural features.

  • For existing brownfields (such as abandoned heavy industrial sites), ensures that your community has considered various mechanisms to have these sites cleaned up. The federation of Canadian Municipalities has a large number of resources to aid with this. Link

  • Work with your health unit and building permit staff to ensure that you are following best practices related to public and private sewage treatment. As an example, Huron County has started a septic system maintenance program.

  • A number of municipalities have developed lake plans. These are created to protect the water quality of lakes and assess lake impacts and carrying capacity.

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