Ontario relies on its abundance of water not only for personal and agricultural uses, and as an important input into commercial and industrial operations, but also for critical ecosystem functions. Freshwater is one of the great natural resources of this province and engages a number of environmental issues.

Ontario's freshwater ecosystems – lakes, rivers and wetlands – are primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). Water infrastructure, however, including drinking water systems, water takings, and wastewater and stormwater management systems, are managed by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) under a number of laws, such as the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Successes under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR)
  • The MOECC agreed to act on Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s Application for Review, which asked that the public be notified when Toronto water treatment plants release untreated or partially treated wastewater into Lake Ontario.
  • When the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change consulted the public on proposed requirements for source protection plans under the Clean Water Act, 2006, 86 members of the public—including municipalities, conservation authorities, First Nations, environmental non-governmental organizations, industry, private individuals and others—submitted comments. The ministry made numerous changes to the draft regulation as a result of the public’s input, including: clarifying the text of certain provisions; broadening the scope of policies that source protection committees may include in source protection plans; and enhancing provisions for consultation with First Nations communities.
  • Environmental Registry comments on proposed Permits to Take Water often result in more protective conditions being added to the final version of the approval.
  • Because of an Application for Investigation, the MOECC expanded the scope of its investigation into violations of the OWRA and the Environmental Protection Act relating to a malfunctioning drainage system, ultimately issuing Orders requiring remedial actions be taken.
  • As the result of an Application for Investigation, the MOECC discovered problems with the way several provincial parks were managing sewage. The ministry took steps to resolve the issue, and encouraged the inspected parks to undertake recommended actions to enhance their sewage practices
Key Outstanding ECO Recommendations
  • The ECO recommends that the MOECC increase the water-taking charge and expand its scope to apply to other water users, with a goal of recovering the full cost of the ministry’s water management responsibilities (2014/2015 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that MOECC require municipalities to recover the full costs of their drinking water systems (2013/2014 Annual Report).
  • The ECO recommends that MNRF proclaim the section of the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act, 2006, that authorizes aquatic class parks (2011/2012 Annual Report).
ECO Reporting on Water

The ECO’s has reported on many water-related topics, including: the Great Lakes; wetlands; fisheries management; agricultural impacts on water; water pollution; sewage and wastewater; stormwater and flood management; watershed planning and management; species that live in or near the water; water quantity, water-taking and water conservation; and drinking water. Below is a selection of the ECO’s reports and articles on water. You can also use the search bar at the top of this page to search our website and reports for a particular word or phrase.

Sewage and Wastewater

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