Working to Protect Ontario’s Headwaters, Watersheds, and Natural Heritage
Collaborative Efforts on Watershed Health
December 2019 — WaterScape III: Sustaining Ontario’s Watersheds
Following approval by the OHI Board in December, we are seeking comments on a concept note for the next stage of WaterScape, which will focus on protecting Ontario’s framework approach for watershed management while embracing a range of aligned issues, from biodiversity and land use planning to source protection, managing the Great Lakes’ Basin, and more.
WaterScape III will seek to establish a series of positive, high-level environmental, social, and economic frameworks that emphasize sustained, healthy watersheds in a sustainable Ontario. Please stay tuned or ask us for more information.
WaterScape II: July and August 2019
July and August: Thanks to a grant from Canada Summer Jobs, we hired staff to help design a survey, perform outreach, track responses, and contribute to a report on sustainable planning in Ontario. Read the survey results and thematic report here: High Consensus Deep Concerns August 2019 . You can also access just the responses in the WaterScape Pie Charts August 2019.
WaterScape I: 2018
From January through March, WaterScape – a collaborative effort of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the Ontario Environment Network, and the Ontario Headwaters Institute – held 6 public meetings with 11 local partners, as well as a webinar, on a Provincial initiative called Protecting Water for Future Generations (PWFG). Over 160 people attended the meetings and more than 140 signed the submission. See the key outcomes below.
Proceedings See the Executive Summary below, or click here to access the full WaterScape Proceedings
Executive Summary of the Proceedings
More than 160 people attended public meetings held by WaterScape, in conjunction with 11 local partners, in Peel, Durham, Simcoe, Brant, Niagara, and Peterborough, and another dozen participated in a webinar. Overarching observations include that:
- There was unanimous agreement at all meetings that the Province is not doing enough to protect water in the Greenbelt and indeed across Ontario.
- While it is clear that the Greenbelt provides some additional protection to water, participants noted that:
- The added protective measures in the Greenbelt do not go far enough;
- Water should be better protected in a comprehensive manner that includes natural heritage across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH), and not just in the Greenbelt;
- Water must be better protected in many areas outside of the GGH, such as the Ring of Fire;
- Water conservation must be more aggressively pursued; and
- Protecting Water for Future Generations (PWFG) needs to embrace an over-arching government commitment to end the conditions causing boil water advisories.
Expanding the Greenbelt
- In spite of significant concerns related to mapping data and consultation efforts, there was consensus at all meetings that the proposed study areas should be considered for addition to the Greenbelt.
- There was also consensus for further expansion of the study areas under consideration to include significant lands in Brant, Niagara, Simcoe, and Peterborough, not all of which should have to be contiguous to the existing Greenbelt, as well as in areas identified by the Bluebelt proposal from the Oak Ridges Moraine Partnership.
- There was unanimous support for agriculture at the meetings, as well as concerns that agricultural impacts on water are not being recognized. Expanded seasons, alterations from historic water budgets, industrial framing, under-regulated use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the use sewage sludge were cited as concerns, as was needed support for organic farming and more sustainable practices.
- The Province needs to support regional planning and provide oversight when municipalities fail to give due consideration to the protection of natural heritage and water.
- Conservation authorities need greater regulatory authority and there must be better inter-agency collaboration on implementation, monitoring, and enforcement.
Prime Regional Concerns
Peel/ Dufferin: Aggregates trump water and producers have uneven access to decision-makers. Better integrated planning, with more support for natural heritage and sustainable agriculture, is needed.
Durham: Fill must be regulated and tested and agricultural lands preserved. Better integration for planning and enforcement, and more supervisory bodies similar to the Niagara Escarpment Commission, are needed.
Simcoe: PWFG takes too narrow a geographic and policy focus with problematic mapping. Greenbelt lands are needed in Simcoe. Municipalities need financial support. Boil water advisories must be addressed.
Brant: Poor planning, industrial farming, aggregates, and biosolid applications to land are impacting natural heritage and water. Greenbelting the Grand River watershed in Brant County held strong support
Niagara: The study areas excluded moraines in Niagara that should be added, as well as connecting areas from a recent study. In addition to greenbelting, Niagara needs strong provincial policies and oversight.
Peterborough: PWFG talks systems but does not walk the talk. Local greenbelting to counter development targets in the Growth Plan is needed. Provincial oversight is needed. End boil water advisories.