Well Aware: Safe drinking water for private wells
In the wake of the Walkerton tragedy in Spring 2001, Green Communities developed Well Aware to address the knowledge gap about well stewardship practices among Ontario households, a third of whom rely on individual private wells for their drinking water.
The Ontario government provided over $3M funding over the next decade for a program that included:
- information materials – the Well Aware booklet (including a First Nations version), factsheets, prompts, website, newsletter
- guided self assessments – voluntary, confidential site visits by trained Water Guide designed to coach well owner in pollution prevention and well maintenance and upgrade issues
- community forums – presentations by expert panelists with opportunities for well owners to get their questions answered
- information provider workshops – workshops with frontline “information providers” to well owners (e.g., realtors, well drillers, municipal staff), to ensure common messaging and accurate information
- outreach – tables, small group presentations, etc.
Well Aware operated as a partnership with Ontario well drillers and technicians, with technical support from professional hydrogeologists. Additional local partners include municipalities, public health, conservation authorities, and others.
As of 2012, Well Aware had racked up some impressive results:
- well owners we have worked with directly: almost 4000
- % who upgrade their wells: 70%
- booklets and kits distributed: over 220,000
- number of community forums: 84, attracting a total audience of 3,000
- number of information provider workshops: 75, for a total of 1900 participants
- website traffic: 30,000 since 2006
In 2009, Well Aware was recognized by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and CH2M Hill, citing our work with seven municipalities.
In 2011, the Ontario Minister of the Environment recognized the contribution of Well Aware to the Province in connection with the Minister’s annual Award for Environmental Excellence.
In the absence of program funding, Well Aware outreach activities are on hold. However, the Well Aware booklet is still available for free download.