The Greenbelt Expansion Study Area: What it is and Why it matters

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The Ontario Government has announced a consultation process to consider growing the Greenbelt to protect critical water systems in communities to the west and north of the existing Greenbelt.  

The Province has identified critical water systems ("the Study Area") currently under pressure from urban growth and climate change, and is seeking public input regarding how and where we should expand Greenbelt protection in those key areas.

See our 101 below and attend a Public Open House near you to get the scoop on the proposed study area!

download.pngDownload the Province's Public Consultation Document


  The Greenbelt Expansion Study Area

The Study Area under consideration include wetlands, streams, rivers, re-charge areas, and moraines in communities to the west and north of the existing Greenbelt.

These areas are being considered for Greenbelt protection because of their importance to our overall water system and the pressures they are facing from development and urban growth. In particular, the Province is considering adding the following areas to Greenbelt Protection:

  • The Waterloo and Paris/Galt moraine complex in Waterloo Region, and Brant and Wellington counties.
  • The Orangeville Moraine in Wellington and Dufferin counties.
  • Several small moraines, including the Gibraltar and Singhampton moraines, along the brow of the Niagara Escarpment in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.
  • The Oro Moraine in northeast Simcoe County.
  • The Nottawasaga River corridor in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.
  • Important surface water and recharge features in southeast Simcoe County.
  • Catchment areas and wetlands west of Minesing in Dufferin and Simcoe counties.

 Why are these areas significant?

  • The Study Area is based on where moraines, coldwater streams and wetlands overlap
  • Moraines act as natural rain barrels, they filter and store rainwater in underground aquifers more rapidly and in much greater amounts than the surrounding, less permeable areas
  • This process provides a reliable supply of water for coldwater streams and a supply of drinking water for many communities
  • Moraines are often the source areas for water that sustain important waterways and sensitive wetlands and species
  • Coldwater streams are important habitat areas for fish and wildlife 
  • Species such as brook trout are adapted to the temperatures of these streams and will not survive in warmer water
  • Wetlands are among the most productive and diverse habitats on Earth, hosting an array of plants, birds, insects, amphibians, fish and other animals, including many species at risk
  • Wetlands are important for the quality and quantity of water because they filter sediment, absorb nutrients and convert many chemicals to less harmful forms
  • Wetlands also provide clean and abundant water, controlling flooding and erosion, storing carbon, facilitating recreational opportunities and providing other important social and cultural benefits

  What is placing these areas at risk?

  • Inefficient development. Moraines and other source water areas are complex and interconnected systems that are highly sensitive to changes from increased urbanization. Loss of habitat, increasing demands for water, and escalating levels of pollution are proven to have irreversible long term effects. 
  • Climate change. Extreme weather events that cause floods and droughts are placing more pressure on our water sources. Keeping the existing hydrological systems in tact is critical to ensure the ecosystem services they provide - like clean drinking water and abundant supplies for rural economic drivers, such as agriculture - continue to function. 

  Why is the Greenbelt the solution?

  1. It's a strong Provincial policy. The Greenbelt Plan is a provincial land use plan that permanently protects prime farmland, specialty cropland, and environmentally significant land from inappropriate development. 
  2. Strong track record with preventing degradation. Experience from the past 13 years shows that the Greenbelt is successful at protecting nature, water and farmland and preventing costly and inefficient sprawl. For more information, read the Report Card on the Environmental Health of the Greenbelt. 
  3. Provides a baseline of permanent protection. Right now, municipalities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe have different policies and guidelines on water preservation and protection, resulting in a patchwork of protections that cannot address the broader "eco-systems approach" required to protect the water systems crossing municipal boundaries. Growing the Greenbelt would ensure all these areas have a permanent baseline of protection.
  4. Strong public support. 9 in 10 Ontarians agree that the Greenbelt is one of the most important contributions to the future of the province.

  What else can be done?

While the 'Study Areas' proposed by the Province for Greenbelt expansion is a critical first step to ensure critical water systems are protected for generations to come, more areas should be considered for immediate protection. A coalition of 120 organizations, with over 500,000 members across Ontario, has put together an ambitious, science-based plan to  protect vital water supplies adjacent to the existing Greenbelt. Several areas in this plan have been left out of Study Areas currently being considered by the government. Find out more

Growing the Greenbelt would permanently protect prime farmland, specialty cropland, water sources, and environmentally significant land from inappropriate development right now – not at some point in the future.

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