Solutions

Watershed-based management principles and practices should underpin the management of population and business growth in the Central Ontario Zone. Both the Walkerton Inquiry and the Managing the Environment Report, which has cabinet approval by the Government of Ontario, recommended that a comprehensive approach to managing all aspects of watersheds be adopted by the province. The following "strategic shift" was recommended in the Managing the Environment Report. The Central Ontario Zone Smart Growth Panel is urged to support the strategic shift in advising both municipal governments and the province:

Our research indicates a consensus that watersheds are an appropriate basic organizing principle for place-based environmental management. Watersheds are reasonably easy to define and remain relatively fixed over time. Also, non-point source pollution is closely associated with run-off patterns.

Adopting a place-based/watershed approach requires new and different structures and processes as well as significant changes in how governments, the regulated community, NGOs, and the public work together as part of:

  • Establishing ecological boundaries that are flexible in size and scope.
  • Drawing heavily on local participation and in some cases, local agencies with delegated responsibilities.
  • Working with local publics and the regulated community to establish goals for each place, in the form of agreed upon public uses/activities for the various resources within its boundaries.
  • Establishing the maximum amounts (total cumulative load) of pollution from all sources (including point and non-point and naturally occurring) that can be allowed in that area over a specified period consistent with achieving the agreed-upon uses.
  • Ensuring transparent public access to as comprehensive as possible a range of information and data.20

The Walkerton Inquiry concluded that the best way to achieve a healthy public water supply is to put in place multiple barriers that keep contaminants from reaching people. The main types of barriers include source protection, treatment, a secure distribution system, monitoring programs (including drinking water standards) and pre-planned responses to adverse conditions.21

A smart growth strategy requires accurate identification of drinking water sources and should put measures in place to ensure that land uses do not affect source waters.

In addition, the following smart growth measures should be implemented:

  • Protect headwater streams and riparian buffer areas.
  • Ensure that water supply is considered in all land-use-related planning activities, including transportation, housing and all other types of construction.
  • Minimize growth in greenfield areas by promoting infill development, brownfield re-development and transit-oriented development.
  • Facilitate development that minimizes regional impervious cover and maximizes regional groundwater recharge and baseflows.
  • Handle stormwater through on-site storage and infiltration through permeable native soils and bioengineering techniques that facilitate evaporation and transpiration, instead of conveyance through large structural systems.

The Walkerton Inquiry also made specific reference to the need to regulate the potential impacts of agricultural activities on drinking water sources. With population and industrial growth in the Central Ontario Zone, both point source discharges and non-point source pollution (e.g., bacterial and nutrient run-off from agricultural lands) can be expected to increase. The Summary of Consultations on the Five-Year Review of the Provincial Policy Statement also included the following comment:

Because of its potential environmental impact, especially on water, a number of stakeholders said that intensive agriculture, such as intensive livestock operations, should be treated differently than traditional agricultural uses. A range of suggestions included both defining and providing specific policy direction and detail for "intensive" agriculture, and linking to other agriculture legislation.23

Stronger policy and regulatory mechanisms need to be put in place for agricultural pollution than have been used in the past. Intensive livestock operations in the Central Ontario Zone, and elsewhere in Ontario, should be treated as industrial emissions and should be regulated by the Ministry of the Environment. Non-point sources of pollution, in general, should be fully considered in watershed planning and management as part of a smart growth strategy.

Notes
20. Executive Resources Group. 2001. Managing the Environment: A Review of Best Practices, p. 5.
21. O'Connor, The Hon. Justice Dennis R. 2001. Part 2 Report of the Walkerton Inquiry.
22. Government of Ontario. 2002. Five-Year Review of the Provincial Policy Statement, Summary of Consultations, p. 11.