The province has kicked in nearly $600,000 to help Toronto and other Golden Horseshoe communities take stock of just what's in the Lake Ontario water that ultimately winds up coming out of a tap.
The $595,000 grant was announced Friday morning by Environment Minister Laurel Broten at a Great Lakes mayors' conference at Toronto City Hall. In total, the provincial environment ministry is handing out close to $10 million for municipalities and local conservation authorities to study the composition of lakewater where it is drawn in for municipal water supplies.
Through the Ontario Clean Water Act, the province is already funding studies of groundwater cleanliness. Groundwater contamination was the cause of the deadly e. Coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario.
The new grants are intended to extend protection to drinking water coming from lakes and rivers.
"The Clean Water Act is about preventing contaminants, preventing threats to our drinking water," Broten told reporters Friday morning.
"You have to understand what those threats are, and unless you take the analysis you don't know. You have to map out where your water comes from."
The funding comes as welcome news to a consortium of municipalities - of which Toronto is a part - that have decided to look at water quality issues comprehensively along the shores of the Golden Horseshoe municipalities on Lake Ontario.
Toronto's top water official, Lou Di Gironimo, said that the $595,000 will help the consortium complete its first phase, which will provide an inventory of all the sources that flow into the lake, from river systems to wastewater treatment plants.
"A lot of it is to start pulling together all the data that we have, from flow data to any water quality data that we may have as well," he said.
In the long term, having a comprehensive database will mean that when one municipality decides, for instance, to build a sewage treatment plant, it won't simply be assessing the environmental impact based on its outflow alone.
"We would hope that if we can put all this information together we might be able to build a model system that looks at all the municipalities, which then hopefully can be used as a tool in making assessments in the future," he said.
While Toronto's drinking water quality is not something to worry about in the short term, it's important to have an accurate picture as waterfront uses evolve and change.
"There's always a need to be vigilant," he said.
"We should never take for granted our drinking water sources. We're doing a good job today but it's incumbent on us to remain ever vigilant - the only reason we have good drinking water now is because we have certain measures in place."
The entire project is estimated to take between three and five years. Toronto is on board with the regions of Peel, Durham, Niagara, Halton and York, Prince Edward County, the towns of Coburg and Port Hope, and the City of Hamilton.