Significant groundwater recharge areas

The land area where the rain or snow seeps down into an aquifer is called a recharge area. Recharge areas often have loose or permeable soil, such as sand or gravel, which allows the water to seep easily into the ground. Areas with shallow fractured bedrock are also often recharge areas. A recharge area is considered significant when it helps maintain the water level in an aquifer that supplies a community with drinking water. For complete definitions, legislation, and regulations visit For local source protection plans, assessment reports, and explanatory document, visit:

Highly vulnerable aquifers

An aquifer is more vulnerable to contamination if the soil layer is thin.

Aquifers are areas of soil or rock under the ground where cracks and spaces allow water to pool. They are considered highly vulnerable based on factors such as how deep it is underground, what sort of soil or rock is covering it, and the characteristics of the soil and rock surrounding it.

Keeping drinking water sources clean  

We thank you for all you do to protect local municipal sources of drinking water.

If you live, work, or own property in a highly vulnerable aquifer or significant groundwater recharge area, you are in a vulnerable area. That means that what you do at home and at work has a greater chance of having an impact on your local municipal drinking water sources. Everything that goes onto the ground or down your sink and toilet or septic system could affect water. Help keep your community’s drinking water safe.Here are some ways you can help to protect your local supply of clean, safe water:

Take used engine oil to recycling facilities.

If you have a septic system, have it inspected and pumped every three to five years.

If you can reduce quantities, or find alternatives to harmful chemicals, please do so.

Never dump these things on the ground, down the sink, or in the toilet: Paints; thinners; furniture strippers; coolants; cleaners; glues, adhesives; gasoline; oil; diesel; heating fuel; de-greasers; resins; creosote; etc. If it’s something you don’t want in your water then please don’t put it on the ground or down a pipe. Dispose properly at hazardous waste days or approved sites.

If you apply pesticides or fertilizers or nutrients make sure you follow best practices.

Prevent spills and contain spills. Report spills if they happen to Ontario Spills Action Centre: 1-800-268-6060.

Protect and maintain your private well. Wells provide pathways for contaminants to enter groundwater. If you have a well, be sure it is sealed properly and if you own a well you no longer use, have it properly decommissioned by a licensed well technician.

Contact us

Ausable Bayfield Conservation 519-235-2610

Maitland Conservation 519-335-3557

Visit for more information

This micro website is an education product from Ausable Bayfield Conservation and Maitland Conservation about ways to protect municipal drinking water sources in highly vulnerable aquifers, significant groundwater recharge areas, and other vulnerable areas.

The content provided here is intended for local educational and information purposes only. Every effort has been made to ensure the correctness of information as at the publication date. Subject to change.

This project has received funding from the Province of Ontario. Such funding does not indicate endorsement of the contents of this material.

Some activities which may pose risk to drinking water:

These are some activities that could threaten drinking water sources in vulnerable areas:

• Septic systems; On-site sewage

• Fuel oil (including home heating oil)

• Liquid fuel such as that stored at gas stations

• Chemicals (toxic chemicals such as organic solvents and dense non-aqueous phase liquids)

• Commercial fertilizer

• Pesticides

• Nutrients (manure, bio-solids, grazing)

• Waste disposal sites (including storage of hazardous waste)

• Sewage works (sewage treatment plants, municipal sewers)

• Road salt and snow storage

• Others: For list of 21 provincially prescribed drinking water threats, visit:

Some of these activities may be significant threats to drinking water sources in zones around municipal wells of this region. However, these activities are not significant threat activities in the highly vulnerable aquifers and significant groundwater recharge areas of this region. These activities may, however, be low or moderate threats to drinking water. Even though they are not significant threats in HVAs and SGRAs here, and you are not required to comply with source protection planning policies in those areas, the work you do to properly manage these activities can further protect your community’s municipal drinking water sources.

Download brochure now:

Vulnerable areas

There are four types of vulnerable areas named in the Ontario Clean Water Act, 2006:
• Significant groundwater recharge areas
• Highly vulnerable aquifers
• Intake protection zones (for surface-water sources of
drinking water such as a Great Lake or large river).
• Wellhead protection areas (protective zones around a
municipal well)