Watershed planning guidance

ERO number
Notice type
Clean Water Act, 2006, S.O. 2006, c. 22
Posted by
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Transferred to
Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
Notice stage
Proposal Updated
Proposal posted
Comment period
February 6, 2018 - April 7, 2018 (60 days) Closed
Last updated

Update Announcement

This proposal notice has been updated on September 15, 2022 to advise the public that this file is still under active review. The original proposal date and comment period have not been altered.

This consultation was open from:

February 6, 2018
to April 7, 2018

Proposal summary

We are seeking feedback on draft guidance which will help municipalities in implementing provincial direction related to watershed and sub-watershed planning. A watershed is an area drained by a river and its tributaries. A sub-watershed is an area drained by a tributary or portion of a stream.

Proposal details

Description of policy

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) are seeking input on draft watershed planning guidance for municipalities and other planning authorities in Ontario.

This proposed guidance is being posted for a 60-day review period and comments are welcome. Comments will be taken into consideration, along with input received through additional consultation opportunities.

Watershed Planning Guidance supports the implementation of policy amendments to the four provincial land use plans (Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Niagara Escarpment Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, Greenbelt Plan) which strengthen requirements for watershed planning. It also supports the Provincial Policy Statement which identifies the watershed and subwatershed as the ecologically meaningful scale for integrated and long-term planning.

Watershed planning is an opportunity for municipalities and other planning authorities to work collaboratively towards watershed objectives by creating a framework for the management of human activities, land, water, aquatic life and resources within a watershed, and for the assessment of cumulative, cross-jurisdictional and cross-watershed impacts.

The draft Watershed Planning Guidance contains the following information to help municipalities and planning authorities to carry out watershed planning:

  • Overview of watershed and subwatershed planning, including policy context, key principles, process and components of a watershed plan.
  • Direction on carrying out effective and meaningful engagement.
  • Indigenous interests and considerations in watershed planning.
  • How to prepare elements of a watershed and subwatershed plan including:
    • Watershed delineation and characterization;
    • Setting the vision, objectives, goals and targets;
    • Water budget and conservation plans;
    • Water quality and nutrient loading assessments;
    • Natural hazards considerations;
    • Climate change considerations;
    • Connections to natural systems;
    • Cumulative impact assessment;
    • Land use and management scenarios; and
    • Monitoring and adaptive management.
  • How to use watershed and subwatershed planning to inform land use and infrastructure planning and decision-making.

Purpose of policy

The purpose of Watershed Planning Guidance is:

  • To support watershed and subwatershed planning by municipalities and other land use planning authorities in Ontario.
  • To support policy amendments made through the Coordinated Plan Review (2017) which includes amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan. These policy amendments set stronger requirements for municipalities and other planning authorities to undertake watershed and subwatershed planning to inform key land use planning and infrastructure decisions.
  • To support policy direction made through the province-wide Provincial Policy Statement (2014) which requires planning authorities to protect, improve or restore the quality and quantity of water by using the watershed as the ecologically meaningful scale for integrated and long-term planning.
  • To support the achievement of various goals associated with other provincial plans and policies including the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, source protection plans created under the Ontario Clean Water Act , Ontario’s Biodiversity Strategy and Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

Environmental Policy Branch

40 St. Clair Avenue West
10th floor
Toronto, ON
M4V 1M2

Office phone number


Commenting is now closed.

The comment period was from February 6, 2018
to April 7, 2018

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