6.2 Using Source Protection Plans

Our interviews with key informants indicate uncertainty as to how the extensive water quality and quantity assessment data collected and modelled by conservation authorities for Source Protection Plans under the Clean Water Act can be linked to inform growth management under the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and MOECC were co-leaders in the source protection work, but provided funding and guidance to conservation authorities through separate processes on two separate parts of the work. Although the studies were subject to technical rules set by the Province, conservation authorities and their consultants were given leeway to use different modelling methodologies and data sets, making it difficult to create a standardized region-wide picture.

MNRF provided most of the funding in the early to middle stages of the source protection studies (between 2006 and 2013). Its expertise and guidance were focused on technical assessments in relation to the modelling of water budgets.

The output of the modelled data for water budgets by different conservation authorities has now been compiled into the Water Quantity Geodatabase, which provides spatial data on Tier 1 and Tier 2 stress assessments at the subwatershed level.

This information is now in the possession of MOECC, but the underlying data used for the assessments are in the possession of individual conservation authorities (and, in some cases, the consultants they hired). These data include volumetric estimates of aquifer capacity and water takings estimates used for the modelling. The MNRF database has not been updated with Tier 3 assessments completed since the database was originally created.

MOECC led a data collection process with conservation authorities to gather all mapping of intake protection zones, aquifers, wellhead protection areas, and significant groundwater recharge areas. MOECC collected standardized vulnerable area maps submitted by conservation authorities and published the collective dataset as the Source Protection Information Atlas.[1] Raw geospatial data of vulnerable area mapping can be obtained by contacting the individual conservation authority for the area of interest. These data identify which conservation authorities used detailed population projections from the Growth Plan process for scenario modelling and which used assumptions that were not based on official plans.

The question of how source protection work can be used to paint a regional picture is the subject of a report for GeoOttawa 2017, which states:

The Source Protection efforts were designed to be locally led watershed-based solutions. The downside of this approach is the difficulty to capture, amalgamate, and synthesize the large amounts of data generated. Reports, guided by a prescribed set of technical rules ... were prepared by a variety of consultants and source protection committees. Therefore, the challenges of this data mining exercise were rooted in the variability of style and content of reports and inconsistency of the data reported. Other challenges stem from the way WWIS and PTTW are structured and maintained.[2]

This challenge will need to be addressed in Phase 2 of this project.

[2] Hazen Russell, Natalia Baranova, Marc Hinton, and David Sharpe, "Consolidating the Value of Ontario Drinking Water Source Protection: Data Mining for Well and Aquifer Information," paper prepared for GeoOttawa 2017.