Source Water Protection

Drinking water source protection is the first step in a multi-barrier approach to protecting our sources of drinking water such as lakes, rivers and groundwater before they become contaminated or depleted. Water is critical to all aspects of our lives. Protecting water sources is important as it can help ensure there is enough safe water, now and in the future. 

How we protect our drinking water sources

As a result of the Clean Water Act, communities in Ontario were required to develop source protection plans to protect their municipal sources of drinking water. These plans identified the risks to local drinking water sources and developed strategies to reduce or eliminate those risks.

To learn more about Source protection planning and the technical studies involved please visit:

A wellhead protection area (WHPA) is the area of land around the wellhead where land use activities have the potential to significantly affect the quality of water flowing into a well.

In the City, wellhead protection areas are found in:

  • Carlisle
  • ​Freelton
  • Greensville
  • Lynden 

Learn more about wellhead protection areas and if your property lies within one.

The Clean Water Act defines a drinking water threat as, “an activity or condition that adversely affects or has the potential to adversely affect the quality or quantity of any water that is or may be used as a source of drinking water”

The following activities have been prescribed as threats by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), when occurring in vulnerable areas surrounding municipal wells:

  • The establishment, operation or maintenance of a waste disposal site within the meaning of Part V of the Environmental Protection Act
  • The establishment, operation or maintenance of a system that collects, stores, transmits, treats or disposes of sewage
  • Application, handling and storage of agricultural source material (ASM)
  • The application, handling and storage of non-agricultural source material (NASM)
  • Application, handling and storage of fertilizer
  • Application, handling and storage of pesticide
  • Application, handling and storage of road salt
  • Storage of snow
  • Handling and storage of fuel
  • Handling and storage of dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPL)
  • Handling and storage of organic solvents

  • Runoff management: chemicals to de-ice aircraft
  • Activity that takes from, but does not return water to the same aquifer or surface water body
  • Activity that reduces the recharge of an aquifer
  • Use of land as livestock for grazing, pasturing, outdoor confinement or farm animal

View the detailed list of drinking water threats from the MOECC.

An abandoned well that is not properly filled, sealed and capped poses risks such as a safety hazard for children and animals and it provides a route for contaminants to enter groundwater reserves. Proper well decommissioning protects ground water resources through the “plugging and sealing” of unused wells. Protect yourself, your family and neighbours by properly decommissioning your well.

Residents may be eligible to receive 100% financial assistance to decommission a well up to a maximum of $1,000 per well, with a limit of two wells per property.

This project is being conducted in partnership with the City and other conservation authorities, for more information please contact:

Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
Phone: 905-788-3135

Conservation Halton
Phone: 905-336-1158 Extension 2263

Hamilton Conservation Authority
Phone: 905-525-2181 Extension 181

Grand River Conservation Authority
519-621-2763 Extension 2278

The Clean Water Act identifies on-site sewage systems as one of the 21 potential significant threats to drinking water. The Ontario Building Code was amended in response. It requires inspection programs to identify systems that are not being maintained properly and therefore pose a public health threat.

All properties with on-site sewage systems located within high vulnerable municipal Well Head Protection Areas (WHPAs) have a greater chance of affecting the municipal water supply well, if they are not functioning properly.

If your on-site sewage system is in this high vulnerable area, this inspection is mandatory under the Ontario Building Code and the Source Protection Plan with a frequency of five years.

Inspection guide (PDF, 159 KB)
Septic smart
Conservation Ontario septic system fact sheet 

Risk management office - drinking water source protection

The risk management office was established to assist in the enforcement of the Clean Water Act for the City. It is comprised of a risk management official (RMO) who will be assisted by risk management inspectors (RMIs), all of who are trained to standards set by provincial regulation.

The responsibilities of the RMO and RMIs include; issuing Section 59 notices, establishing guidance documents for risk assessments, preparing risk management plans (RMP) for prescribed activities, developing templates and forms for RMPs, developing information packages or sessions for property owners, negotiating and establishing RMPs with property owners, approving RMPs, monitoring implementation and performance of the RMPs, and reporting to the source protection authority.

The RMO and RMIs will also work closely with property owners, municipal staff, local conservation authorities and agencies such as the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH).

A risk management plan (RMP) regulates activities that pose a significant drinking water threat to municipal drinking water sources. The RMP includes best management practices designed to ensure that risks to the municipal drinking water source are reduced or eliminated. The plan is generally negotiated between the person doing the activity and a risk management official.

For example, if fuel stored at a service station is a significant threat to drinking water, a risk management official would work with the gas station owner to develop a risk management plan to reduce the chance of spills from an underground tank.

The RMP may be simple and straightforward in cases where best management practices are already in place. The plans can be amended as activities and operations change over time.

For more information
Risk Management Office
Source Protection Planning - Hamilton Water
Suite 400 – 77 James Street North (City Centre)
Hamilton, ON, L8R 2K3

Phone: (905) 546-2424 x 4018

Under Section 47 of the Clean Water Act, it is the responsibility of the City to administer, implement and enforce Part IV of the Clean Water Act within its boundary. There are three main tools by which the City will enforce Part IV of the act in order to address activities considered significant drinking water threats (SDWT) within its boundaries:

  • Section 57 – Prohibition of an activity that is a SDWT
  • Section 58 – Establishment of risk management plans to manage the risk of an existing or future threat.
  • Section 59 – Screening of new development applications within vulnerable areas where SDWT are possible.

The Hamilton-Halton source protection plan was approved by the MOECC on August 5, 2015. The plan took effect on December 31, 2015.

The Grand River source protection plan (Lynden) was approved by the MOECC on November 26, 2015. The plan will take effect on July 1, 2016.

Who is affected by the source protection plan policies

If your property is in a vulnerable area and you are carrying out activities that are a threat to drinking water sources, then you are subject to the source protection plan policies. Vulnerable areas in Hamilton where these policies currently apply are wellhead protection areas & intake protection zones.

Use the links below to search for your property, review source protection plan maps and review the full list of drinking water threats.

New source protection plan policies can affect future development if you live wholly or partially within a wellhead protection area (WHPA) in the City of Hamilton. The Section 59 written notice is now a requirement for anyone who is submitting a planning or building permit application within the WHPA.

If your property lies within a  wellhead protection area (PDF, 13 MB) in Hamilton, building and planning services will not accept your application without a Section 59 notice.

The estricted land use application must be filled out and submitted to the risk management office for review prior to the submission for a building permit or planning act applications. The information on this application form will help the risk management office determine if a development or building application is subject to Part IV policies under the Hamilton-Halton source protection plan and the Grand River source protection plan.

Any applications determined to require a risk management plan will require further consultation with the risk management official.

This form can be submitted:
By mail
Risk Management Office
Source Protection Planning - Hamilton Water
Suite 400 – 77 James Street North (City Centre)
Hamilton, ON, L8R 2K3

By email

In person
City Hall, 71 Main Street West, Hamilton
3rd Floor (Building Division) or 5th Floor (Planning Department)

Contact us

Risk Management Office
Source Protection Planning
Phone: 905-546-2424 Ext. 4018