Waterproof 3, our third national drinking water report came out yesterday, and — for the first time ever — it takes a close look at source water protection across Canada.

Which begs the question, what exactly is source water? And how do you protect it?

Every glass of water we drink starts out as source water. The raw water you find in places like lakes, streams and underground aquifers is source water, and it feeds our local drinking water systems. Once it reaches those systems, it is treated, tested and delivered into our homes for us to use.

Protecting water at the source is a critical step in achieving drinking water systems that deliver clean, safe water. Rather than treat and test water supplies that have already been compromised, protecting water at the source can stop contamination before it happens.

For those who draw their water directly from the source — for example from a well — it is the only layer of protection available.

In short, source water protection is a proactive approach to something we can’t afford to be passive about.

Source water protection starts with identifying water sources and the things that could threaten them. For the different levels of government, it means regulating land-use and ensuring that activities happening near water sources don’t compromise its quality.

Source water protection varies from province-to province. Some jurisdictions, like Ontario, have ambitious, well-funded plans in place to protect its water sources while others, like Nunavut, have yet to move in that direction. For an overview of how the each province and territory stacks up, click HERE.

Individual Canadians can also take action to protect source water by disposing of prescription drugs properly instead of flushing them down the toilet and using natural cleaning and lawn care products.