Oxford County depends on groundwater for its drinking water. However, groundwater is susceptible to contamination from activities occurring on the surface. Contaminants can end up sinking into the ground and impacting the groundwater supply.
Groundwater contamination can occur from:
- leaky fuel tanks
- overuse of fertilizers and pesticides
- manure application
- chemical leaks and spills
- poorly maintained septic systems
If groundwater becomes contaminated it will create long-term issues that are costly to fix. To ensure drinking water is safe and clean it is important to prevent contamination at the source. Source water protection is the first step to protect existing and future sources of drinking water.
Clean Water Act
In 2006, the Ontario Government passed the Clean Water Act, stemming from the Walkerton water tragedy in 2000 when the drinking water supply became contaminated with e-coli bacteria. Seven people died and thousands were sickened.
One of the new measures to come out of the Clean Water Act is the development of Source Protection Plans (SPPs). Oxford County is part of four Source Water Protection areas:
Catfish Creek Source Protection Plan
Long Point Region Source Protection Plan
Grand River Source Protection Plan
Thames-Sydenham and Region Source Protection Plan
These Source Protection Plans were developed by multi-stakeholder source protection committees. The Plans contain policies to ensure potential risks to drinking water are being managed.
Wellhead protection areas (WHPA)
Maps have been created to show the locations of municipal drinking water wells and the vulnerable areas that contribute water to the drinking water system. The vulnerable areas around municipal wells are designated as wellhead protection areas and issue contributing areas. Wellhead protection areas have been given scores and ratings based on their vulnerability and susceptibility to contamination. It is these localized areas that need to be protected and managed to reduce the risk to drinking water.