Clean Water Primers available to help Ontarians, Canadians

Clean Water Primers available to help Ontarians, Canadians

In 2004, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper began researching and drafting a series of manuals called the “Clean Water Primers.” The idea for the Primers stems from the demand from policy-makers, analysts, volunteer groups, and the media who are increasingly searching for comment on a wide range of water-related issues. The Clean Water Primer is a reference guide that includes “everything you ever needed to know,” including applicable laws and policies, precedents, history, etc on a particular subject. Each primer will also include expert analysis describing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and emerging issues in the field. Over time, the individual publications will create an important resource library for policymakers around the Great Lakes and across Canada.

The Primers were designed with grassroots groups and citizens in mind – people without legal training who are using legal processes to help protect aquatic habitats.

The first two are available now:

Primer #1: Taking water from the Great Lakes: a citizen’s guide to the policies, rules, and procedures that protect Ontario’s waterways

This Primer provides a step-by-step guide to water-takings and diversions in Ontario. It helps readers comment on new water-takings, improve existing permits, and hold people and corporations accountable for taking water without proper permits. This Primer also provides an important context for anyone participating in the ongoing creation of Ontario-United States agreements on water use. There is an introductory section that provides a history of water-taking conflicts and agreements on the Great Lakes. This helps to put the current Water Resources Agreements into context. The rest of the Primer is divided into sections that correspond to the kinds of watertakings issues you might have in your community: – a proposed withdrawal that threatens your water supply – an ongoing withdrawal that has no permit – a permitted withdrawal that is having impacts on the environment The Primer then walks you through the different legal tools you can use to resolve each kind of issue.

Primer #2: An Introduction to Canadian Environmental Law and Tools

This Primer was prepared specifically for use in Waterkeeper’s Clean Water Workshop, but it is a handy tool for anyone working on environmental issues in Canada. It provides a brief introduction to environmental laws (such as the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act) and tools (such as judicial review). This Primer will remain in draft form until Summer 2007 so that students and Waterkeepers can offer suggestions for improvement. This Primer provides a brief introduction to every major federal environmental law in Canada, the tools that these laws create for citizens, and the process that you go through to help protect your environmental rights. It covers topics such as private prosecutions, access to information requests, and petitions to the federal government.

Coming soon… Clean Water Primers on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, U.S. water-taking rules, Ontario laws and tools, and more! A special thanks to the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation for its support of the Clean Water Primer project.


The Clean Water Primers are available free of charge.

You can read them online or request a hard copy by visiting Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s web site:


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.