Oxford County

Source water protection

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 
  • wells
drinking glass of water being handed to child

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.


Oxford County has identified property owners whose land is within a Wellhead Protection Area, and is reaching out to those property owners to notify them.

The Source Protection Plans include policies that address significant drinking water threats. The Plans manage threat activities using risk management, prohibition, and existing provincial requirements.

Before land owners are required to make any changes to the activities on their property, a County Risk Management Inspector will conduct a site visit to confirm whether the activity constitutes a significant threat under the Clean Water Act. Activities are determined to be significant based on the location within a wellhead protection area and if the activity meets specific circumstances. In most cases, the activity will be allowed to continue, but with some best management practices put into place. These best management practices will help to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.

Oxford County Maps

To see specific maps for the drinking water system closest to your property, visit: maps.oxfordcounty.ca. Select your address where the property lies and the municipal wells that are nearby.

Landowners may be required to implement best management practices (BMPs), as part of a Risk Management Plan, to meet new Source Protection Plan requirements. These BMPs may include projects such as upgrading their facilities and implementing spill response measures to manage and reduce the identified risk to source water. Oxford County is offering a comprehensive incentive program to help reduce the financial impacts of these projects that improve and protect ground water quality.  

Eligible projects will be funded at 70% of the total cost of the project to a maximum amount for each project. Each property is limited to a total of $35,000 in incentive funding, not including required septic system improvements, over the life of the program.

Read more about the incentives available for Oxford County land owners.

If you have questions, or for more information contact: 

Source Protection Program Coordinator
519-539-9800 ext. 3126

  • Canadian Groundwater Association Guidelines for Water Well Construction
    “Guidelines for Water Well Construction” were first published in January 1992 by the Canadian Groundwater Association. Following an intensive review in 1993/1994, the document was revised and republished in January 1995. The revision reflects current standards of practice and sets forth guidelines for proper water well construction across Canada. The manual can be used as a guide for the drilling and construction of water wells. Primarily, the guidelines apply to water well construction for the purpose of obtaining groundwater supply for human consumption, preparation of food products, livestock watering, public and private utility, and institutional supplies.
    The “Guidelines” serve as minimum construction requirements, and any provincial standard or regulation that supersedes the recommendations would apply. The minimum guidelines meet the criteria set out in most of the existing regulations and legislation in effect across Canada. The publication serves to guide drillers, well owners, and legislative agencies in the construction of safe and useable water wells. Emphasis is that water wells should be constructed so that they can be maintained, serviced, and located away from all types of contamination.
  • Well Aware
    Well Aware is a program provided by Green Communities Canada, a national association of non-profit organizations that offer practical solutions to environmental problems. The Well Aware program encourages Ontario’s residential water well owners to protect their wells and our common groundwater supplies. Education is a key tool that is used in the Well Aware program. To facilitate the education of well owners, Green Communities Canada has developed “A Guide to Caring for your Well”. Within this guide, guidance/education is provided on the overarching topic of protecting well water. Topics include well location, well construction, well upgrading, well decommissioning, and well maintenance. Another service offered through the Well Aware program is voluntary site visits. These visits are to assist the landowner to identify and address potential risks.
  • Well Wise
    The Ontario Ground Water Association was created in 1952 as a not-for-profit organization to facilitate the various sectors of the groundwater industry coming together for the delivery of safe and clean water supplies throughout the Province. Well Wise had partnered with the Ontario Ground Water Association to provide a water testing program.
  • Well on your property
    Information and rules for residential well owners for the proper location, construction, maintenance and abandonment of a well.
  • Wells Regulation – Well Abandonment: How to Plug and Seal a Well (technical bulletin)
    The purpose of this technical bulletin is to summarize the information on how to abandon a well found in the Water Supply Wells Requirements and Best Management Practices manual published by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
  • Wells Regulation – Well Abandonment: When to Plug and Seal a Well (technical bulletin)
    The purpose of this technical bulletin is to summarize the information on when to abandon a well found in the Water Supply Wells – Requirements and Best Management Practices manual published by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. This technical bulletin is one in a series of 11 on well issues created for a person who currently owns a water supply well.
  • Water Wells
    This infosheet outlines options to address concerns identified in your Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) as they relate to existing private rural water wells. It describes management options for private well owners to consider in order to maintain safe drinking water and to protect the water supply. It also provides links to technical and regulatory information.

Ways to avoid pesticide spills - Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs
A comprehensive guideline to avoid pesticide spills. Pesticide spills can be difficult and costly to clean, but most spills can be prevented with proper transportation, storage and handling.

Household Hazardous Waste - Oxford County
Oxford County has an extensive waste diversion program in place, with year-round recycling depots available to residents six days a week at the Waste Management Facility (landfill) in Salford. The depots accept residential waste at no charge, as long as the recyclable materials are not mixed with regular garbage.

Farm Source Water Protection Framework - Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The Framework is intended to be an aid to farmers with farm operations categorized as "significant drinking water threats" by the Source Water Protection Plan prepared for their watershed. Completion of the template will help farmers organize accurate information specific to their farm businesses in the format that facilitates discussion with the risk management official. Having this information assembled and understanding the Source Water Protection process will be of immense value when a farmer meets with municipal officials to discuss how best to manage the situation.