95% of Ontario’s population lives in a watershed managed by a Conservation Authority
Unique to Ontario, Conservation Authorities are local watershed management agencies that deliver services and programs to protect and manage impacts on water and other natural resources in partnership with all levels of government, landowners, and many other organizations.
Conservation Authorities promote an integrated watershed management approach balancing human, environmental, and economic needs. Conservation Authorities are organized on a watershed basis.
There are 31 Conservation Authorities in southern Ontario and five Conservation Authorities in northern Ontario. The network of Conservation Authorities is represented by Conservation Ontario, which is a nonprofit association. Conservation Authorities began to be established by municipalities and the province in the 1940s in response to severe flooding and erosion problems in Ontario.
Conservation Authorities are either charitable or nonprofit organizations legislated under the Conservation Authorities Act, 1946. Each Conservation Authority has its Board of Directors comprised of members appointed by local municipalities and most are elected municipal officials.
Conservation Authorities range in size from very large to small which influences the programs and services they can offer.
Hurricane Hazel – 1954
A particular milestone in Conservation Authority history was the impact of a devastating event – Hurricane Hazel in 1954. This storm mobilized the need for managing Ontario’s watersheds on a regional basis.
As a result, after Hurricane Hazel, the provincial government amended the Conservation Authorities Act to enable Conservation Authorities to acquire lands for recreation and conservation purposes and to regulate that land for the safety of the community.