Current Low Water Conditions
In the fall of 1998 and summer of 1999, southwestern and parts of eastern Ontario experienced an extended period of low rainfall and high temperatures. These were the lowest water levels and driest soil conditions recorded for several decades. Ontario prepared a response plan to deal with low water conditions for the first time in history.
The Ontario Low Water Response Plan (OLWRP) was released in May 2001 in partnership with the Ontario Ministries of Natural Resources and Forestry, Environment; Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs; Municipal Affairs and Housing; Economic Development and Trade; the Association of Municipalities in Ontario, and Conservation Ontario.
Its goal was to ensure provincial preparedness, assist in coordination and to support local response in the event of a drought, and provide a definition and means of quantifying drought and low water conditions and OLWRP established local Water Response Teams (WRT).
Water Response Teams (WRTs)
- Watershed based
- Coordinate local activities
- Teams consist of local water users and local and provincial water managers
- Do not replace the function of provincial agencies, conservation authorities or municipalities but provide coordination of response between the agencies
- Possess no unique legislative authority
Team membership includes provincial, municipal and conservation authority (CA) staff with possible representation from other sectors: agriculture, rural private industry, recreation, resource management interests, First Nations.
How it Works:
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) monitors conditions across the province and advises CA’s when watershed conditions have met criteria for a Level I event based on either streamflow, precipitation or both. The CA reviews the MNRF data and if it agrees, declares Level I Low Water Conditions exist for all or a part of its watershed and the WRT meets. Members of the WRT advise their local groups of conditions and how to meet the target of a 10 % reduction in usage.
MNRF and the conservation authority continue to monitor conditions to determine if a Level II has been reached. The CA, along with the WRT will declare either the Level I condition has passed or a Level II condition exists.
The WRT may request municipalities invoke any water restriction bylaws for non essential use (should they not already be in place) and will request an additional reduction of 10 % water usage from local groups.
If a Level II condition is declared, the Ontario Water Directors’ Committee (OWDC) will form and activate a standing Low Water Committee to enhance and reinforce cross ministry program support.
The OWDC Low Water Committee is responsible for making declarations of a Level III condition based on the recommendation from the local CA and WRT and advice from the provincial field representatives.