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Protect your water supply and your neighbours’ – Get Permits To Take Water for all your water source

Protect your water supply and your neighbours’ – Get Permits To Take Water for all your water sources

Rebecca Shortt P.Eng., Water Quantity Engineer OMAFRA

To maintain crop yield and quality, it is important that farmers have access to a water source

Do you have water sources currently in use for irrigation? Or are you planning on developing new sources? Getting a permit to take water (PTTW) for all of your water sources helps the province make sure water takers do not adversely affect the environment or each other’s water supply. All new PTTW applications (irrigation, gravel pits, municipal supplies) will be reviewed to ensure they are unlikely to impact existing PTTWs, including irrigation PTTWs.

What is required?

The Ontario Water Resources Act requires that any irrigation greater than 50,000L in any one day of the year, be approved by a PTTW. That means greater than 13,000 US gallons or ½ acre with 1”. For most farmers, this means that unless the irrigated area is very small (e.g., less than 3- or 4-acres total) a PTTW is probably required.

In the early 2000s there was a big push to ensure all irrigators in Norfolk and surrounding counties were legal water takers and avoided water conflicts by having their PTTWs in place. Many of you will remember meetings and workshops at the Delhi Belgian Club where PTTWs were quickly processed.

ALL water sources require a PTTW. Examples include:

  • Dugout pond

  • Farmer constructed pond

  • On-stream or beside stream pond

  • Stream, creek or ditch

  • Sand points

  • Well

  • Spring

  • Hole dug in a wet area

  • Lake

The process has changed in the last 20 years, but the requirement is still there – without a PTTW a producer is irrigating illegally. The producer could be charged, fined and have their irrigation equipment seized.

Scientific studies

In most cases the irrigator will need to arrange and pay for a scientific study to demonstrate that the irrigation water taking will not interfere with neighbours’ water takings or with the natural environment.

Water taking studies can take time. You can contact the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) for a pre-submission consultation before investing a lot of time and money in the water supply being considered.

All wells or stream takings will require a study as part of the application package, however, dugout ponds, only being fed by groundwater (no streams feeding them) can be processed without a scientific study if they meet the following criteria:

  • Less than 4 m deep and more than 100 m from a neighbour’s well or a stream or wetland

  • Less than 7 m deep and more than 250 m from a neighbour’s well or a stream or wetland

Existing PTTWs should be checked annually and renewed well before their expiry date (PTTW durations usually range from 5-10 years). Renewal of an existing PTTW usually doesn’t require scientific studies (unless specifically outlined in the PTTW – be sure to check!). Major costs can be avoided by keeping all PTTWs up to date and renewed in advance of their expiry.

The MECP’s review of the proposed water taking can take up to about 3 months. The time to plan for summer of 2023 irrigation is no later than fall of 2022 – now!

How to apply

A new online application process is available for both new PTTWs and to renew existing PTTWs. The advantages of the online platform are:

  1. Convenient access to all your PTTW applications and approved PTTWs

  2. Report water takings in the same account with improved functionality

  3. Skip re-submitting information for future renewals.

For renewals of PTTWs that were not issued through the new online process you can select the “Paper to Electronic Transition” option,

A video demonstrating the online submission process is available through the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention 2021

MECP’s help desk is ready to answer questions and provide guidance.

For more information on PTTW application requirements and process, refer to or call the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks at 1-800-461-6290. 


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