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Ontario launches campaign to explain drinking water protection signs

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A music video, social media posts and an online mapping application have arrived from Conservation Ontario to help educate the public about drinking water protection zone signs.

The new campaign aims to resolve some of the confusion motorists may feel as they see some of the 1,700 signs along the province’s highways and local roads, explains Deborah Balika, Conservation Ontario’s source water protection lead.

“The Drinking Water Source Protection Road Sign Working Group, which includes multiple Conservation Authority staff, enjoyed creating fun, dynamic, and interactive new ways for Ontarians to find out about drinking water source protection and vulnerable areas around municipal wells and intakes,” Balika announced in a statement to media.

The signs are meant to designate areas around municipal drinking water sources where extra protective measures help to reduce risk and keep drinking water safe and clean for the more than 80% of Ontario’s population which receive their drinking water from a municipal drinking water system.

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The three-week public education campaign will examine various elements of drinking water source protection, which can include protection from overuse or contamination, among other issues.

“By the end of this campaign, we hope people will know more about these signs, about source water protection, actions that have taken place since 2006 to keep their water safe and clean, and how they can be part of this important work to protect public health,” adds Balika.

A song written for the new campaign, called “I Gotta Know”, tells the story of a man who comes upon the mysterious sign and explains how his curiosity gets the best of him. He just has to look it up online and figure it out.

Under the Clean Water Act, 2006, 19 Source Protection Regions and standalone Source Protection Areas were established. The Source Protection Regions are made up of a group of local Source Protection Areas. There are a total of 38 Source Protection Areas based on Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities, in addition to the Severn Sound Environmental Association and the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula.

The implementation of 22 approved source protection plans is “well underway across Ontario” through municipalities, provincial ministries and Conservation Authorities.

There are also 22 main threats identified under the Clean Water Act. These include agricultural activities; airplane de-icing; aquaculture; commercial fertilizer; dense non-aqueous phase liquids; fuel; organic solvents; pesticides; road salt; sewage; snow storage; waste; and conservation.

An interactive map to locate signs in your area can be accessed here.

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