In May 2000, heavy rain washed E. coli bacteria into a well providing water to the town of Walkerton. A series of human and mechanical failures allowed the bacteria to get into the municipal water supply. Seven people died and more than 2,300 were ill.
As a result, the Ontario government set up the Walkerton Inquiry under Justice Dennis O'Connor. He issued a two-volume report with 121 recommendations to prevent a similar event from happening again.
The report recommended the creation of science- watershed-based plans to protect existing and future sources of municipal drinking water from contamination and over use. These are the wells, rivers, streams and lakes where municipalities get their raw water.
As a result, the Ontario government passed the Clean Water Act 2006.
The act created the Lake Erie Region Source Protection Committee, which is one of 19 in the province.
The first step was to identify the sources of municipal drinking water, determine how vulnerable they are to pollution and depletion, and the threats to the water sources.
Next, the committee led the development of four source protection plans, one for each of the watersheds in the region. The plans outline the policies and programs that will reduce the risk posed to water sources by the most significant threats. Municipalities played an important role in the process to ensure the policies and programs in the plan meet local needs.
Regular and extensive public consultation occurred throughout the process.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change approved the four plans in 2014 and 2015.