Municipal drinking water systems: licencing, registration and permits

Information and rules for owners or operators of systems supplying drinking water to municipalities.

About drinking water systems

Municipalities own — or have water supplied to them — through various types of drinking water systems. 

The provincial government, through the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, regulates these systems to ensure water safety and quality. 

This includes:

  • registering all municipal drinking water systems
  • licensing system owners/operators
  • authorizing operators to run and maintain drinking water systems
  • issuing drinking water works permits to modify, repair or extend drinking water systems

The law

Every owner and operator of a drinking water system must ensure that:

  • the system’s water meets Ontario’s Drinking Water Quality Standards
  • anyone who operates or works on their system is properly trained and licensed
  • drinking water tests are done by licensed, accredited laboratories
  • adverse test results are reported to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and the local medical officer of health

Source law

Provincial standards for water quality are set out in:

Types of water systems

There are 4 types of municipal drinking water systems:

Large residential

Serve 100+ private residences.

Small residential

Serve 6-100 private residences.

Large non-residential

Supply water to designated facilities (e.g., day cares, schools, hospitals) at a rate greater than 2.9 litres per second.

Small non-residential

Supply water to designated facilities (e.g., day cares, schools, hospitals) at a rate less than 2.9 litres per second.

Quality Management System

An accredited operating authority must be in charge of a municipal residential drinking water system at all times.

To be accredited, you must establish and maintain a quality management system that meets the requirements of Ontario’s Drinking Water Quality Management Standard (DWQMS).

Accreditation is granted after a third party verifies that your quality management system meets the requirements of the DWQMS.

Learn more: implementing a quality management system

Accreditation

If you have questions about accreditation or would like to become accredited to the DWQMS, please contact one of these organizations:

NSF International

Email: canada@nsf-isr.org
Telephone (toll free): 1-866-261-0086
Telephone (direct): 519-821-3334

SAI Global
Email: dwqms@saiglobal.com
Telephone: 416-401-8672

Learn more: Accreditation Protocol – Operating Authorities
Learn more: Director’s Directions – Minimum Requirements for Operational Plans

Licence

Municipal residential systems must be licensed under the Municipal Drinking Water Licensing Program.

Licences are valid for 5 years as long as you:

  • maintain your status as (or employ) an accredited operating authority
  • prepare a financial plan and have it approved by your municipal council
  • have a valid permit to take water
  • operate your drinking water system according to the conditions in your licence

To apply for, renew or amend a licence:

  1. refer to the Guide for Applying for DWWP Amendments, Licence Amendments, Licence Renewals and New System Applications
  2. complete the application
  3. submit form to and requiring supporting information by mail to:
    Director, Safe Drinking Water Branch
    Floor 12A
    2 St. Clair Ave W
    Toronto ON M4V 1L5

Download guide: applying for amendments, licence renewals and new systems
Download application: to apply for a new licence, amend or renew a licence
Get a permit to take water
Learn more: financial plans for drinking water systems (part II sec. 13-14)

Contact the Approvals and licensing section

Call or email the approvals and licencing help line:

Telephone:
416-314-4300
Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Email: mdwlp@ontario.ca

Register a water system

Operators must register drinking water systems and keep information up to date.

To register:

  1. complete the Drinking Water System Profile Information form
  2. complete the Laboratory Services Notification form (when you receive your Drinking Water System Number)
    • fax the completed form to: 416-314-8716

Download: Drinking Water System Profile Information form
Download: Laboratory Services Notification Form

Update registration information

  1. complete the Drinking Water System Profile Information form
  2. e-mail the completed form to: reg170_formsubmission.moe@ontario.ca

Download: Drinking Water System Profile Information form

Change a water system

To make any additions, modifications, replacements or extensions to your drinking water system, changes must be either approved through a Schedule C amendment to your drinking water works permit or pre-authorized through a condition in your drinking water works permit.

Director Notification is required within 30 days of completing or placing the alteration into service if:

  • A pre-authorized alteration will change the description of a drinking water system component in your drinking water works permit or
  • The alteration was approved through a Schedule C amendment.

To notify the Director:

  1. complete the Director Notification Form
  2. submit form by email: MDWLP@ontario.ca

Download: Director Notification form

Exemptions

The Director does not need to be notified of any repairs, maintenance or modifications that are exempt from the approval requirements.

Amend permit

To make an alteration or modification that has not been included as a preauthorized condition, you will need to amend your drinking water works permit (DWWP).

To amend your permit:

  1. refer to the guide to amend your drinking water works permits
  2. complete the application to amend your drinking water works permit
  3. submit form and supporting information by mail to:
    Director, Safe Drinking Water Branch
    Floor 12A
    2 St. Clair Ave W
    Toronto ON, M4V 1L5

Download: guide to amend drinking water works permits
Download: application form to amend drinking water works permits

Regulatory relief or permission to fragment your system

To request permission to fragment your system or to obtain relief from regulatory requirements, first read the guide below and then complete and submit the application form.

Read: guide for applying for fragmentation and relief from regulatory requirements
Download: application form for fragmentation or relief from regulatory requirements

Record changes

To take advantage of the conditions preauthorized in your drinking water works permit, complete the form(s) for your records. You are required to keep this record at the drinking water system for a minimum of 10 years.

Download: Form 1 - Record of watermains authorized as a future alteration
Download: Form 2 - Record minor modifications or replacements to the drinking water system
Download: Form 3 - Record of addition, modification or replacement of equipment discharging a contaminant of concern to the atmosphere

Test for lead

Children up to 6 years old are more sensitive to the effects of lead because they are still developing and their bodies can absorb it more easily than adults. Even small amounts of lead can be harmful to young children, infants and pregnant women.

Owners and operators of municipal residential drinking water systems must test for lead.

You need to take water samples from these 2 sources:

  • plumbing — pipes inside the home or building
  • distribution locations — pipes leading to the home or building

Plumbing samples

You must obtain permission from the owner of the property before testing.

Steps:

  1. turn on tap for at least 5 minutes to flush water from lines, turn off
  2. wait 30-35 minutes — do not use plumbing
  3. put bottle under tap, turn tap on to normal flow rate and take 3 samples continuously without turning off the tap and with as little spillage as possible between samples
  4. take 1 one-litre sample for lead testing
  5. take a 2nd one-litre sample for lead testing
  6. take a 3rd sample and perform pH testing using an electronic pH meter with a sample size per metre specifications

Distribution samples

A distribution sample must be taken on the same day and from a location as close as reasonably possible to the locations where plumbing samples are being taken.

Steps:

  1. flush sampling point (hydrant or tap) until you can get a sample from that part of the system
  2. take 1 sample for lead testing (size identified by the lab conducting the test)
  3. take a sample for total alkilinity (size identified by the lab conducting the test)
  4. take a sample and perform pH testing using an electronic pH meter with a sample size per meter identification

You can request to reduce your lead sampling requirements.

Read: standard and reduced sampling and eligibility for exemption

Reporting

The owner or operating authority of the system must submit a report to the Director within 30 days after the end of the sampling period with:

  • number of points sampled
  • number of samples taken
  • number of points where a sample exceeded the standard for lead

Send the form to:

Director, Drinking Water Programs Branch
Floor 3
40 St. Clair Ave W
Toronto ON
M4V 1M2

Email: leadsubmission.moe@ontario.ca

To request relief from lead sampling requirements read:

Download: community lead testing report form
Guide: Requesting regulatory relief from lead sampling requirements

Reporting Adverse Drinking Water Quality Test Results

In the case of adverse drinking water test results for drinking water systems regulated under the Drinking Water Systems regulation Ontario Regulation 170/03 , licensed laboratories and drinking water system owners are required to report as below:

  • Provide oral notice to Spills Action Centre (SAC) at 1-800-268-6060 or 416-325-3000 and the local medical officer of health
  • Provide written notice to SAC and the local medical officer of health within 24 hours of the oral notice. SAC’s fax number is 1-800-268-6061 or 416-325-3011
  • Provide written notice to SAC and the local medical officer of health within 7 days after the issue has been resolved, summarizing the action taken and the results achieved. SAC’s fax number is 1-800-268-6061 or 416-325-3011

A Notice of Adverse Test Results and Other Problems and Notice of Issue Resolution at Drinking-Water Systems (O. Reg. 170/03)

Drinking water help line

For questions about:

  • drinking water systems
  • confirming your system classification
  • water testing

Call: 1-866-793-2588
Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Updated: July 18, 2014